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REVIEW | “Blue Madonna”: Don’t fail me now

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By Sarah Bel Kloetzke

Two years ago in Capricorn Season I went ice skating with some friends and the love of my life. It was one of our first dates as a couple, and I remember falling asleep on her shoulder on the long car ride home in what I thought was the most romantic setting ever. But the other, less lovestruck people in the car remember me connecting to the bluetooth stereo, putting on BØRNS’ Dopamine album, never taking it off repeat, and falling asleep. So they heard it a good 3 times that night, I believe. Maybe it wasn’t super pleasant for them, but listening to BØRNS while drifting in and out of consciousness was bliss to me. It’s like that album imprinted on my heart that night, and sometimes when I hear “Past Lives” I see still ice skates and the nighttime Minneapolis skyline behind my eyes.

July 2016 (Leo Season) I saw BØRNS play First Avenue. The summer of ‘16 was a weird, weird weird time in my life but that particular night stands strong in my memory as one of the best live shows I’ve ever witnessed. Garrett Borns took the stage like it had always been his, donning a purple silk crop-top and a Gucci belt. His voice was just as perfect, if not better than it was on his albums and his performance brought the music to life. He took a mid-set wine break. He covered Elton John and didn’t butcher it. That night was surreal.

Now it’s winter again and BØRNS has released his second album, Blue Madonna. I’ve held high hopes but also a sort of wary anticipation—all of these positive memories are in the hands of this pop star (and British Dance/Electronica producer Tommy English.) The bar is high.

My very first impression of the new batch of songs was the single “Faded Heart.” It’s an immediate feel-good song. I can picture spotlights, enthusiastically-choreographed backup dancers. Maybe some guy is gleefully dancing through a pseudo-street stage set. Absolute show tune vibes. I thought to myself, this is something I could drive around to. Possibly even upbeat enough to get me to clean my room more enthusiastic than usual. It got me waiting for Blue Madonna with a little more hope in my heart.

The music video for “Faded Heart”: for people who are interested in drug-induced trips, low budget videos, and high budget suits.

Then “God Save Our Young Blood” happened. Lana Del Rey makes an appearance on this opening track, which makes perfect sense—her aesthetic (if you will) complements BØRNS’ perfectly. I was neutral to the song throughout my first few listens, but apparently listening to something over and over again can really alter your opinion. Here’s the issue: “God Save Our Young Blood” sounds like a song wherein the verses were the first thing written, fawned over, pinned as a hit—but then there was an “Oh shit, we need a chorus” moment. So, naturally, they just put in a bad, nightmarish repetition of the song title like a child’s nursery rhyme in a horror movie. God save our young blood. Just that string of words annoys me already.  But it’s okay. I still love BØRNS. I just don’t ever want to hear this again, which probably means I’ll have to stay at least 500ft away from every Urban Outfitters for the next five years.

“We Don’t Care” is the next highlight of the album, and it honestly just really makes me want to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Opening with a classic, rockabilly-meets-The-Bangles-style guitar riff, the track transports you to a different place, reminiscent of that same show tune vibe delivered by “Faded Heart.” I think I could listen to Garrett Borns’ voice for the rest of my life. We don’t care / Touch me / Everyone’s watching but we don’t care. He uses his feminine sing-song voice to his advantage in this track, contrasting with rock n’ roll instrumentals and the deepest, grungiest tone for the bass line that he describes on Genius as reminding him of  “a harlequin dancing.” “We Don’t Care” is a bright-shining moment for Blue Madonna.

There’s no denying that BØRNS makes pop music. It’s danceable, easy to love, Taylor-Swift-approved. Though the pop music industry can seem like a broken record, the Michigan-native has always been able to stand out in his young career through his style, his voice, his personality, and his unique lyrics, as exemplified in “Man” and “I Don’t Want U Back” with lines like Tell me what is heaven if our souls are split in two? And what is heaven if my spirit’s without you? and Heartbeats are made of honesty. Alongside his poppy tracks have always been more ‘chill’ songs, but Blue Madonna has proven to be a goldmine of the best moonlight driving/dancing around my room Audrey Horne-style/thinking about my girlfriend dreamy soundtracks. “Sweet Dreams” is leather-jacket-clad, gripping the steering wheel as streetlights whip by. The brief treasure “Tension (Interlude)” makes it impossible to not move at least my head to nod in time with the music. “Blue Madonna” is an absolute dream of a love song: But I just wanna watch her / Like a candle in the moonlight / Hotter than a blueberry flame—catch me swaying to this song and pretending I’m in a movie for the rest of my life. But out of the BØRNS Catalog Of Dreamscape Songs also known as Blue Madonna my favorite might be “Iceberg.”

How To Listen To “Iceberg” By BØRNS: A Sub-Article.

  1. Listen to it loudly, and through headphones. (Sorry Mom.)
  2. Listen to it repeatedly. Hear the synths. Hear the other synths. The other synths, too. The buzzes, the chimes, those solid opening quintuplets. Imagine some ethereal plane, like the Night Elf starting area in World of Warcraft.
  3. Listen to BØRNS’ voice. Get chills.
  4. Iceberg (My love is so much deeper than you see)
  5. Iceberg (My love is so much deeper than you see)
  6. Iceberg (My love is so much deeper than you see)

  7. Iceberg (My love is so much deeper than you see)

  8. Turn it down a little at the two-minute mark, or you’ll hurt your ears. (See, I care about you.)

  9. Groove.

 

“Bye Bye Darling” closes out Blue Madonna, but it’s the first track of the album that I fell in love with. In classic ballad-style, a piano leads you through the song—just simple chords, solid and steady. The minimalism highlights Garrett Borns’ vocal ability as he sings sweetly of an ending relationship or simply mourning the comfort of one. Goodbye to the paperback age / I miss your touch / To flip you, crease you, lay underneath you, fall asleep to / Bye-bye darling I’ll miss you so much. You could say that Blue Madonna acts as a sequel to BØRNS’ debut album, Dopamine, whether that was the artist’s intention or not. The first album is full of dreamy, hopeful, sunshiney love songs, while Blue Madonna harbors the same love-life theme, but gone a little sour. The honeymoon phase is dead, and “Bye-Bye Darling” is the obituary. The song (and album) ends with an extra pseudo-song following the faux-end of “Bye-Bye”—an upbeat, hope-saturated piano parlor tune where BØRNS sings And every time I think of you I’m so glad / What we had they’ll never know / And every summer night we stayed up late (so late) / Blowing smoke into figure eights / La-da-da-da-da La…

Blue Madonna is an album that I had to sit with for a little while, as I’ve learned that all good music deserves deeper-than-surface-level contemplation. Proving my fears unnecessary, BØRNS has not disappointed. I look forward to using Blue Madonna as the soundtrack of whatever is to come in 2018—hopefully many more ever-dreamy nights.

About sarah bel (12 Articles)
Highly caffeinated college student who loves many things. Favorite acts include Beach House, Parenthetical Girls, Perfume Genius, Death Cab For Cutie, The Academy Is, and The Frights. All-time favorite song is Dance Yrself Clean by LCD Soundsystem. Also a big fan of second-hand fashion, travel, photobooths, the paranormal, e.e. cummings, and writing letters. Find me on instagram @kloetzke.

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