On Instagram, Madison Beer may appear to have it all, but her debut album Life Support unravels the inner pain behind her posts in a span of 17 songs. Like many users, the 21-year-old's online profile highlights her best moments, however, her new music delivers a more unfettered image of her life. "[The album is] very evolved and more polished, and me, organically me," says Beer.
Almost nine years ago, a 13-year-old Beer uploaded a cover of Etta James’ “At Last” to her Youtube channel, which grabbed the attention of pop sensation Justin Bieber. As a result, Beer found herself earning what seemed like instantaneous media attention and, not long after, a record deal with Island Records, as well as a contract with Bieber’s own manager Scooter Braun.
Since the start of her career, the young singer has released several singles and EPs. Growing up in the limelight, she quickly developed a devoted social media following, blurring the lines between her public persona as an artist and one as an influencer. However, that changes with the release of Life Support. "For so long I have been talking about myself and my story and explaining to people things that I feel like the album is just going to do on its own,” she says.
In many ways, Beer’s new era resembles one of a Disney kid finding their own voice as they enter adulthood, sans the public scandals and rebellion. She’s shedding the skin of the girl from Youtube and growing into her role as a musician. In doing so, she’s taking more control over her art, beginning with her move to Epic Records. “I felt like I was really able to take this album by the horns and say, This is where I want to steer it. This is where I want it to go,” explains the singer. “I wasn't going to let anyone change my mind otherwise and I knew I was going to stay true to me, and I am really glad I stood my ground and let it evolve and go in the places that I wanted it to.”
Not only did Beer lead the charge on the album’s musical direction, but she shaped the visual aspects as well. She conceptualized the soap opera-esque style of her “Boyshit" music video, as well as the fashion in “Selfish.” The simple, but impactful video features Beer in a skin-tight, knit bodysuit with stretched cutouts along the sides, crying as rain falls around her. “I had seen this outfit on Tumblr,” Beer recalls. “When I first made the treatment for 'Selfish' and I first knew that that was my idea, I was like We need something really raw and skin tight, and that's just an iconic outfit so we went with that one.”
Like most pop albums, the record covers her love life and the stings of heartbreak. However, unlike her previous tracks like “Dead” and “Hurts Like Hell,” both of which adopt a more mid-tempo, anthemic approach to break-ups, her Life Support encapsulates the emotional toll the end of a relationship can take on a person. The Lana Del Rey vibes of “Blue” grapple with a toxic relationship with a cool demeanor, while in songs like “Everything Happens for a Reason” and “Emotional Bruises,” Beer processes her conflicting feelings towards her now-ex.
However, there’s also a theme of struggling with one’s mental health that runs throughout the record. The album’s ninth track “Homesick” illustrates the singer’s search to find a place of belonging (with a quip from one her favorite shows, Rick and Morty), as her single “Stained Glass” rips open the doors on her inner turmoil with lyrics like, “My life's just a faded memory of one I can't have/And everything 'round me is starting to fade into black.”
While many have interpreted these lyrics as referring to her former relationships, Beer has spoken candidly about her own struggles with her mental health. In August 2019, the singer was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and in 2020, celebrated being one year “clean” of self-harm.
Beer has also spoken candidly in the past about social media’s impact on one’s mental health. In an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Beer said, “In the day and age of social media, and we’re all guilty of it, everyone’s life looks so perfect and everyone seems so abundantly happy, that when you’re miserable, you’re like Why? You feel so horrible about yourself.”
Fortunately, creating Life Support—aptly named—has been a real catharsis of sorts for Beer. “It was very therapeutic and healing at times, a bright light in a dark tunnel," the singer says. "It was tough. At times, I was really nervous about putting myself out there, about being so open about things that I may not be at peace with yet, so it can be intimidating and scary."