Album Review: BØRNS – ‘Blue Madonna’

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'Blue Madonna' album artwork

‘Blue Madonna’ is the sophomore album from BØRNS, a highly anticipated follow-up to his excellent 2015 debut ‘Dopamine’. The record begins with a bold opener, God Save Our Young Blood (feat. Lana Del Rey), and it is immediately noticeable that Garrett Borns has taken this album in a much more electronic direction. He and Lana compliment each other, singing back and forth to each other. A standout lyric on this track is “On the coast that we love”, which shows Garrett and Lana declaring their shared adoration for the west coast. His vocals are very crisp and clear, whereas Lana’s are as soft and airy as usual. The droning synth in the background builds throughout the track, which keeps it interesting, and this sound works for this track in the same way that it does on Lorde’s Green Light.

Following God Save Our Young Blood, there is virtually no pause and Faded Heart begins immediately, sounding the complete polar opposite of the new electronic BØRNS sound that listeners have just been introduced to. This song would easily fit into his debut ‘Dopamine’, if it wasn’t for the fact that he is experimenting with vocal filters. There’s a haze over them, a fuzz, but this adds warmth to the track. It’s not off-putting. The tight drum sounds are very sharp and precise, providing a nice contrast to the filtered, crackly vocals. However, two tracks into this record, the lyrical substance doesn’t seem to be very strong. In terms of production, this album is very ambitious and small details such as the violins on this track are a nice touch, adding a lot of drama to the song and making it less of a traditional rock-influenced pop song. But I couldn’t help but feel that his lyrics could be less clichéd.

Sweet Dreams is more downtempo and the dreamy synth sounds in the chorus are reminiscent of Tame Impala. We Don’t Care is yet another example of Garrett’s unique vocals shining through. This song features even more ambitious production, as it introduces Indian/oriental guitar sounds, another addition to the crazy sonic palette of ‘Blue Madonna’. The chorus is quite anti-climatic, however lyrics such as “She’s my light, she’s my daredevil halo tonight, the world’s on fire” save the track, dropping a subtle political reference to the turbulent times that we’re living in. We Don’t Care certainly feels as carefree as its title, but perhaps BØRNS should be encouraging political participation rather than telling his fans to stare into their lover’s eyes whilst they wait for it all to blow over.

Man marks a return to the electronic style of production featured in the opening track, sounding like a CHVRCHES or a Hot Chip song. The choir singing backing vocals and its cheery piano style add a slight gospel feel to the track and at this point in the album, it’s quite refreshing to return to the electronic production. His vocals on Iceberg are quite whispery and the icy synths and violins match the way that he sings the word ‘iceberg’. The last minute of the song sounds so vibrant and his words seem to be loaded with emotion. It’s remarkable how BØRNS is able to hit some of these high notes. The Tension (Interlude) sounds similar to Holiday by Madonna, so perhaps this was a nod to the singer and the album title.

On ‘Blue Madonna’, BØRNS offers orchestral, uplifting production and killer vocals. The record sees him experimenting with more electronic sounds and vocal filters, and whilst the results are successful, the lyrics of this album let the record down.

 

‘Blue Madonna’ is out now, via Interscope Records.