New Sounds: Anna Madsen seduces a film noir character study in the video for ‘Black Dress’

Over time, the “little black dress” has become one of the most celebrated symbols of fun-loving femininity, but Concord, New Hampshire singer/songwriter Anna Madsen has slightly different intentions for the svelte getup. In her new video for “Black Dress,” Madsen doesn’t just wear black, she indulges in it, draping it over her shoulders and lifting it from her ankles like a lux feather boa in the solemn bedrooms of a Victorian mansion.

To call the opus steamy and passionate would be an understatement; to simply call it “hot” would miss the point completely. All of the elements intertwine perfectly in what Madsen calls “a darker, ‘film noir’ take on Pretty Woman,” dabbling in the art of power and prowess while dodging popstar-style sexploitation.

The song originally debuted on Madsen’s 2016 release Efflorescence, but will be featured on her new album Whisper, due March 3. The music video sets a sultry tone for the new record — the release party arrives two days later (March 5) at Londonderry’s Tupelo Music Hall — by introducing viewers to the bitter tribulations of the character Madsen portrays in the “Black Dress” video.

“The character in the video has an interesting history,” she tells Vanyaland. “She was raised in a religious background, but through a series of unfortunate events, fell into escorting to take care of herself financially. The character portrayed in the video is angry, and looking for any way to take back the power that has been stripped from her. The character I played is plagued by guilt and rage, but still trying to hold onto anything remotely resembling love. However, she finds herself disappointed and empty, as you can hear in the last chorus of the song, where she sings ‘I want to be alone tonight.’”

While Madsen strongly refers to her role in film as being a character, a glimmer of coincidence binds her to her “Black Dress” persona. The alternative singer was raised in a Mormon family in Utah prior to moving to New Hampshire in 2014.

With some risqué material planned, she made sure to phone her mother before she started working on the video: “I called my mom before we went into production. I wanted to tell her about the concept, and why I felt like it was important for me to do this video for myself, and for my vision of the song. I was raised in a culture that has a higher standard of living when it comes to morality, and while I greatly respect where I come from, I knew the vibe of the video wouldn’t reflect how I was raised. With that being said, I wanted my mom to hear about it from me first. She and I have a very good relationship, so she was understanding, and appreciated the heads up. We agreed it would be best if neither she nor my father watched it.”

You can take a peek at the video below, but don’t let the rope and garnet belt distract you. As Madsen says herself in some of her last coos of the song — “Long ghostly lashes, rosy lips/I think I found a distraction” — emotional control is the real key.

“To me, this video symbolizes taking back that power I was talking about earlier,” Madsen says. “Whether that ‘power’ I’m referring to corresponds with sex or life, that’s for you to decide.”