As a teenager, Madilyn Bailey started posting her stripped-back, acoustic song covers to YouTube in 2009. Today, the musician has nearly 10 million subscribers and over 1 billion views on her channel, all thanks to her stunning voice.

In 2012, her cover of David Guetta and Sia's hit "Titanium" went particularly viral online. Her cover was so popular it ended up gaining radio airplay in some countries, and was even featured in TV shows.

Bailey revisited her fan-favorite "Titanium" cover in 2021, when she competed on Season 16 of America's Got Talent. Though she didn't win her season, she did make it to the semi-finals, and earned notoriety when she performed an original song inspired by hate comments she received online.

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Now, 14 years after sharing her voice to the world for the first time, the singer has dropped her long-awaited debut album, Hollywood Dead, which tells the story of an artist who's dedicated years of her life to her craft through clever lyricism and pop excellence.

On the title track, Bailey sets the tone by defying Hollywood's outdated point-of-view about age, singing, "Been posting since before these kids' conceptions / Yeah, it's f--king depressing..." The resulting album is an honest testament to never giving up on your dreams or honing your art.

Below, Madilyn Bailey tells PopCrush about her long-awaited journey to Hollywood Dead, how her song "Dreams Die Hard" is connected to her IVF experience and who her "pop mommies" are.

Watch Madilyn Bailey's "Hollywood Dead" Music Video:

What is the connection between the title Hollywood Dead and your longtime experience in the music industry?

The title came from a joke that I made in a writing session, where I said, “Oh, I’m turning 30 this year, so that means I’m basically Hollywood dead.” In the industry, especially as a female, it feels like you age a lot faster than in the real world. Thirty is still relatively young, but there are so many younger talented people popping up every day it’s sometimes hard not to feel like you're racing the clock. But this is just one of those Hollywood lies it’s time to get rid of. There’s so much room for artists of all kinds to share their art, and age shouldn’t be something that stops us.

What was the process of making this album like?

After I made that joke about being Hollywood dead, the concept for the album just started coming together. I wanted to put together a full body of work that really said, “This is my story, and this is who I am.” Hollywood Dead follows my story of moving to L.A. and all the things I had to go through to get to this version of me today. It touches on subjects that range from excitement to disillusionment; love to heartbreak; and doubt to hope. I hope there will be a song on this album that meets you where you are on your own life journey.

What did you want it to sound like?

When I was imagining the sound for this album, I really wanted the sound to match the energy of each stage of the journey. The top of the album has some really fun, exciting, poppy pop songs because the beginning of the journey is always the most exciting, heightened, chaotic part of the journey.

After "Hollywood Dead" I wanted the sound to shift to something darker, edgier and rockier to represent the fears, doubts, anger and disillusionment that come from the part of the journey where heartbreak, betrayal and self-sabotage come into play. And then the sound shifts one last time at the end of the album to something softer and more emotional to represent the healing and hope that comes from looking back and seeing the beauty of the journey. And then you start the journey all over again, wiser and more capable than ever.

Which song on the album are you most proud of?

"Dreams Die Hard" is a very special song to me. It has some of my favorite lines in it. This song speaks to the struggle of letting go of the future we imagined for ourselves whether it’s the guy you thought you’d marry but didn’t, the career you thought you’d have but don’t, or, for me, the family I thought I’d have but was told I might never be able to have.

I wrote this song the day I found out my only chance of getting pregnant would be through IVF, which can be a very long and painful process, and that even that might not work. Six months ago my husband and I gave it one last shot with our last embryo and are now expecting a little girl in November.

Listen to Madilyn Bailey's "Dreams Die Hard":

Who or what inspires you most musically? Who did you grow up listening to that informed your style today?

I think life, words, emotions and storytelling are what made me truly fall in love with the art of songwriting, and then singing became the means of transportation, my way of getting them out there into the world. But all of my pop mommies helped shape my sound as well. You’ll definitely hear bits of Sia, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and Katy Perry sprinkled throughout this album.

How does it feel to have an album of original songs out after being known for your covers?

It feels unreal! When I started my YouTube channel 14 years ago, the entire purpose was to find my audience and put out my own music. Covers have taught me so much and grown a really cool community of music-loving people, but it’s always been the dream to write my own songs and get them out in the world, and now I’m able to do that. It’s a beautiful, full circle moment for me!

How do you think the music industry has changed since you started posting your covers?

Fourteen years ago I think the traditional route — get discovered, sign a record deal, get your songs on the radio and tour — made a lot of sense, but today there are so many more options thanks to social media. Being an independent artist is now not only very achievable, but it is also the move, in my opinion. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the freedom you can have with your art and the connection you can have with your audience is so much more powerful when you’re the one at the heart of everything.

A theme on the album is age. You’re 30 now, and you started posting covers when you were a teenager. What do you think about how society makes women feel about aging? Did you feel pressure to put out a debut album sooner?

I spent most of my 20s being stressed about age. There is this narrative fed to female artists that if you haven’t made it by 23, 26, 29... then you’re done. There’s all this extra pressure on everything you release needing to be perfect, and if it doesn’t get millions of plays in the first week, you've failed. But there’s something quite magical about reaching this forbidden age and realizing that I actually have so much time, I have so many skills and so much more patience than I did in my 20s. Art doesn't have an expiration date, and neither do you. In fact, I’d say my songs are only getting better and better as I go.

What would you want your younger self to know about where you are in your journey now?

I’d probably say something like, “It all works out the way it’s supposed to, and it’s the best. You don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself, and it’s okay to have fun while working hard.”

But honestly, there’s a lot I could learn from younger Madilyn. She was so brave to put herself out there. She believed in herself before anyone else ever did and before there was even a shred of evidence that it would work out. She followed her instincts. She wasn’t afraid to fail. She worked so hard. I want to be more like her, just a little less stressed.

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