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SJ McDonald and Brittany Moore Bring Attention to Domestic Abuse With Powerful Song "Rouge"

Usually at UPstar. Music I try to keep things super upbeat and fun and solely about Country Music. But I think what makes this platform cool is being able to voice and spread any message or awareness that needs to be shared. At no point do I want people to think I don't care about what is going on around us, especially considering the year we've had with COVID, politics and things along those lines. Truthfully, you see that shit 24/7, whether it's on the news or two Karen's battling it out on Twitter. I want to use UPstar. Music as an escape from all the shitty things happening around us and an outlet for people to find enjoyment through the genre they love, even if it is for just a few minutes.

When SJ & Brittany released "Rouge" I was so inspired. Not only did these ladies have the courage and vulnerability to share a song that is so deep and dark to many, but they have helped to raise awareness of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a travesty that (sadly) happens around the United States and the world daily. Over the last several months I have developed a good relationship with SJ. We had a conversation about sharing this powerful message with all the artists, songwriters, musicians and listeners who follow UPstar. Music. In this article, SJ McDonald and Brittany Moore, the writers and singers on this incredible song, sit down with me and talk about domestic abuse and their vision to help bring awareness to it with this deep and touching song.

By the Numbers: Domestic Abuse

  • It is important to understand that anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, faith or class.

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to 10 million individual.s

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence or partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fear, PTSD and contraction of STDs.

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence - beating, burning, strangling, etc.

  • On a typical day, there are 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

  • Only 34% of individuals who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.

Andersson, V. et. al. (updated, 2023) "Domestic Violence [Statistics and Facts]".

If you or a loved one are affected by domestic abuse call 1-800-799-SAFE

Inspiration Behind Rouge

Written By: SJ McDonald & Brittany Moore, Produced By: Brandon Meagher

Brittany: "I personally think it dates back to before this song. I think that we like to write very different titles and try to write about things that haven't previously been said. Nashville is about writing songs with new perspectives. One will often hear songs with similar storylines and topics. Our inspiration starts with a history of writing songs that are different and outside the box. SJ was the one that brought this title to the table that day."

SJ: "Yeah, I never really thought about the word rouge before, but there is this Devin Dawson song that I was listening to before the write called "War Paint". It is about a woman putting on makeup and he uses the word "moulin rouge" so I wrote it down. Fast forward, Brittany and I were FaceTiming in May and I brought up the word rouge. We spent time googling it and figuring out what it meant and how to use it. We found that it is used most frequently as a term for make up and blush. Basically, a fancy word for red."

Brittany: "I'm also notorious for like, if someone gives a title or main idea, I'll google it - even if I know what it means. I just think that it offers an interesting perspective and sometimes the wording on a definition pops up and will open up a bunch of different doors you never even thought of. I remember SJ “examining” the word rouge. We talked about this title for 30-40 minutes. It was an engaging conversation about different ways the story could be. We definitely didn't begin with the idea focused on domestic abuse. It was a conversation about 4 or 5 different ideas, before even sitting down in the room."

SJ: "It was one of those things where both of us were thinking the story would center around domestic abuse, but neither said it because it's such a hard and heavy topic. You don't want to bring down the mood, since most of the time co-writes are fun and uplifting. Both of our brains kind of connected at that point, I think we finished the song in about an hour."

Brittany: "It was a very fast write. Most writes are about 3 hours give or take. The first chunk is usually catching up with people or really getting to know someone and throwing out song ideas and titles. “Rouge” was a really quick write."

SJ: "I remember that both of us said we got chills when writing the song. At least for me, that is a rare thing."

Q & A With SJ & Brittany

Q: On the day of writing "Rouge" what was the headspace like? With a unique and powerful song like this, how did you make sure you did the song justice for those who have dealt with domestic abuse?

A: Brittany: "I feel like we knew it was a heavy topic and the weight it carried. We have both had relationships that may not have been the best. Even if you haven't experienced domestic abuse yourself, we all know someone who has."

SJ: "The sad thing is, when you know of so many stories like rouge, you can really tap into that emotion."

Brittany: "Artists, during the long stretch of quarantine, are putting out positive and uplifting songs. Stuff that will lighten the load a little. But during this same time, statistics have shown an increase in incidents of domestic abuse. More people are home, there may be less control over the situations we are living in. We just thought this was a topic that needed to be talked about. More people need to be aware of what's going on."

SJ: "Those happy and uplifting songs are important. People also need that sad song that pinpoints exactly what they are feeling, are currently living with or have been through in the past. What I love about this track is the music is really redemptive, but the lyrics aren't. When I would send this song to some friends, they said they wanted a happy ending. But in reality, there aren't as many happy endings as we want in life."

Brittany: "We went back and forth with these ideas a lot in the writing room. As we were coming to a close, I specifically remember us talking about if we give her an empowering moment, where she breaks free or moves on from the relationship. Talked about it for a hot minute, but ultimately we decided that not every story has a happy ending. There are so many cases that don't end up redemptive, unfortunately."

Q: What has the reaction been so far to "Rouge"?

A: SJ: "Personally, I've gotten messages... specifically one I got like 5 minutes after it was released. One of my friends from Belmont reached out to me and said "I've looked for a song like this for so long and you finally gave it to me". I have also had people message telling me their story about being in an abusive relationship and getting out. It feels good to know that even though it is more of a sad and serious song, we pulled on some heart strings. People feel like they can talk to us about their stories, including strangers we don't even know. "Rouge" really opened that up for our listeners."

Brittany: "I agree. I don't think I've gotten as many messages as SJ, but I have received a couple. SJ and I were torn on this one. As an independent artist, you know not to go in with high hopes when releasing music. But we were really hopeful this song would get some traction behind it because of the message it contains. Being two female artists, releasing a duet isn't very common right now. Either way, we have been really pleased with the reaction and connection we've made with listeners. Ultimately, I pursued Country Music because it makes me feel something. Whether it was when I was growing up or right now, songs are always coming out that move me. It's really cool being on the other side of that experience and having people feel and connect to a story that we wrote."

Domestic Abuse Statistics Source:



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