Not including it’s more improvisational forms, the most daunting form of theatre has to be the “one-person show.” Trapped in perpetual performance with a demand for perfection, without a co-star to pull you out of unforeseen setbacks that often occur when anything is truly LIVE.

Madness,” the 2019 release from songwriter John Zdrokeski, starts off with a soliloquy that is so bare, that even on first listen you find yourself rooting for the singer to get it right, despite you not knowing the tune.  And so it is, that John patiently weaves his narrative like a maze that only he knows the route through, breaking between lines, dancing around his melody but never repeating it exactly. Without knowing his face, you can see him, alone under the spotlight on the stage, a delivery so natural, you swear he’s writing it on the spot.  

The pure solo voice, with no instrument and very little effects, breaks to silence and returns with a bigger vocoder harmony drenched version of the original idea. John employs a similar vocal effect that made Imogen Heap an international sensation; and John uses it just as effectively.  

The songwriting on “Madness” is poetic in nature, especially in how John stretches bars between meters.   Perhaps this is how the great poets in ancient times sang when they delivered the message of their history.  It is much easier to deliver a difficult story in song, and the narrative of “Madness” touches on some of the most difficult feelings of the human experience. A familiar story, John explains, “I don’t think I was some monster bringing “Madness,” to confuse you on your route, to sit in judgement or impede. And I don’t know what to do about this, cause all I’d ever want’s to feel your dreams and let them breed.”

What’s most interesting, is that even 3 minutes into a song that only consists of John’s bare voice and layered harmony effects, you’re not asking for the band to drop because John is constantly evolving his idea and making it more interesting. 

Then he admits, “I think I’m losing my mind, Oh this loneliness begins to feel like madness, cause here I am again, believing you are here, and I don’t know what to do about this, this ghost of you’s become to me the thing I hold most dear. I should let it go, it’s not really you I know, but the madness moves me so.”  

“Madness” could have been an outtake from Peter Gabriel’s “So.”  John’s voice is both soft and soulful. The arrangement doesn’t conform to any of the rules of popular music. Most importantly, John is singing to you, or perhaps, to everyone. He admits, “I sit here waiting on the white cliffs of dover for you, hoping you will hear my song.” 

Dive deep into the “Madness,” and all of the great undiscovered gems on our Best New Indie playlist.  

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