As the new year begins, the pressures of a whole new set of challenges and adventures weigh heavy on our shoulders. But it is all going to be okay because smooth-voiced singer-songwriter BORNS has returned to grace us with his sophomore album, “Blue Madonna,” the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2015 debut album “Dopamine.”
Off the bat, it is obvious that BORNS is further embracing his androgynous image and style with both the title and cover art of this new album. The title refers to the Madonna-esque persona that he adopts throughout the 12 tracks on the album and the art features himself adorned in a strikingly ’70s suit, from the wide lapel all the way down to the bellbottoms. This image he builds up in the listener’s mind before the album even starts is picked up and carried through with an impressive blending of genres and energy from track to track. In doing this, he risks the album feeling disjointed, but manages to pull it off in such a way that the big moments in some tracks feel properly placed and earned.
The album differs quite a bit from “Dopamine” in terms of style and aesthetic but the crooner’s signature tenor-and-falsetto combination is still present, with him singing sometimes energetically and other times wistfully about finding and losing love.
The first song on the album, “God Save Our Young Blood,” marks the first and only feature in his discography thus far. Lana Del Rey does an excellent job on the song, setting a high bar for the remainder of the tracks. Del Rey and BORNS’ voices blend together in a way that is immensely satisfying and their harmonies manage to retain much of the haunting beauty present throughout Lana Del Rey’s music. It is also a pleasant surprise when she makes a return later on the track “Blue Madonna.”
It is obvious why “God Save Our Young Blood,” which strays from BORNS’ normal style slightly, would be released as a single alongside “Faded Heart,” which is itself a very strong song, but is more reminiscent of the music on “Dopamine.”
Although some tracks struggled to stand out as much, such as “Iceberg” and “I Don’t Want U Back,” they are far from bad. They unfortunately seem to get overshadowed by the originality and overwhelming style of the rest of the album.
Alongside these songs are slower, serene tracks like “Sweet Dreams,” which itself sounds like a lullaby and “Bye-Bye Darling,” which is a soothing but powerful song that is very reminiscent of David Bowie. This is where the ’70s influence comes to a head in the album but it is a common theme through the rest. “We Don’t Care” and “Second Night of Summer” are both excellent pop songs that sound as though they were taken right out of the songbooks of Bowie and ABBA respectively.
As for the titular Madonna influence, it is ever present in “Man” and “Blue Madonna,” but they stay true to the title in that there is something about them that does feel more “blue” than any song Madonna ever made. This reserved, sometimes lively and other times tranquil, play on the ’70s style works extremely well and solidifies BORNS as more than a one-hit wonder, showing off his artistic capabilities and talents.