When Lana Del Rey posted about BØRNS’ new album “Blue Madonna” on Instagram, describing it as “one of the craziest, best records I’ve heard in years,” she wasn’t wrong. One listen alone reveals “Blue Madonna”as a vivid, emotional and expansive album. Sure, it features the same themes BØRNS sings about on his debut album, “Dopamine” (2015). It’s about young love, young heartbreak and youth in general. Yet while “Dopamine” was an ode to those feelings, “Blue Madonna” is so much more than that. It’s a lament, full of longing and sadness, wrapped beautifully in electronic beats and dreamy pop.
BØRNS was a breakout star in 2015 with his massively successful single “Electric Love,” which topped charts and led his debut “Dopamine.” With this came tours, videos, festivals and performances galore. Like many artists before him, when the initial success died down, a haunting question hovered over him: What comes next? Sophomore albums are, simply put, tricky. Artists with successful debuts seem to find themselves in a curse. Do they create an album similar to their debut, or is that too predictable? Do they completely change their persona and ideals, or is that also too predictable? It seems there is this gray area, an area where that sophomore success can be found. Lady Gaga found it with “Born this Way” (2011), which saw her sticking to her Gaga persona but exploring darker themes, ideas and styles. It seems, thankfully, that BØRNS also found it.
“Blue Madonna” opens with the sparse and dreamlike “God Save Our Young Blood,” which features Del Rey. (Del Rey also returns later in the album on “Blue Madonna.”) The song seems to set the mood for the album: youth, love and all the problems that come with them. Despite this, it doesn’t set the musical style. In fact, with each song, BØRNS surprises us with different sounds and vocals, exciting strings and heavy beats, his signature swooning vocals and newfound whispers. BØRNS is more versatile on this album than ever. He’s psychedelic and hypnotic on “Sweet Dreams,” smooth and exciting on “Man,” quiet and honest on “Iceberg” and bruised on “Second Night of Summer.” Arguably the best track on the album, “Tension (Interlude),” is also the shortest and features BØRNS surrounded by infectious beats moaning about rejection. “Supernatural” seems to sum the album’s question up perfectly: “Is it us, or is it supernatural?” In other words, is love really there, or is it something else? BØRNS tops the album off with a longing slow jam, “Bye-bye Darling,” which features the perfect lyrics to bring the album into a fully realized piece.
The lyrics take the front seat on “Blue Madonna,” specifically to help BØRNS keep himself out of the rut of repetition. Yes, he sticks to his comfortable themes. This time, however, BØRNS pushes those themes into unknown territory and sound, experimenting with heart-on-sleeve feelings and expressions. This exploration is the perfect formula. After all, Lorde followed the same equation with her critically successful “Melodrama” (2017). Why shouldn’t BØRNS? In truth, “Blue Madonna” is the perfect sophomore album for BØRNS and a great way to begin 2018.