Sophomore outings can be a tricky business, especially when they come on the heels something as assured as BØRNS 2016 debut Dopamine. With Blue Madonna, BØRNS doesn’t quite recapture the original’s effortless sense of cool, instead offering something more moody and complex but ultimately slightly less satisfying.
Of course, it’s tough to follow the expectations set by “Electric Love” and its playing-in-a-commercial-every-five-minutes ubiquity. What’s most surprising (and refreshing) about this album, then, is that BØRNS doesn’t really try to recapture the magic of his biggest hit. In fact, the only song that really strives for that kind of pop dominance is the lead single “Faded Heart,” which features a fuzzed-out synth and a breakneck pace and seems destined to play at hip bars from now until the end of time.
However, though “Faded Heart” is the standout, it is also the exception. For the majority of the album, BØRNS takes a slower and more meditative turn. It is on these tracks that BØRNS’ vocals really shine. His powerful falsetto has always set him apart from other synth pop acts, and it really takes center stage on the back half of the album on “Second Night of Summer” and “Bye Bye Darlin” (listen to how he really digs into the “throwin’ me that shade” line on the former.)
There is also a fun sense of sonic experimentation present on the album. “We Don’t Care” features a bouncing Bo Diddley beat and a canned sitar lick, marrying rock 'n' roll and psychedelia in a way that recalls two wildly different eras of the Beatles. “Supernatural” reaches deep in into the bag of hipster instruments and pulls out a soaring theremin solo, which manages to sound distinctive even on an album full of different electronically produced sounds. Blue Madonna also prominently features vocal guest star Lana Del Rey. Though their musical sensibilities are compatible, they don’t exactly push each other to new heights on this album. Look no further than the opening track, “God Save Our Young Blood,” a pleasant enough ode to summer love, that nonetheless slightly overstays its welcome.
Though Blue Madonna my not create the same waves as Dopamine, it's still a solid enough outing; it's greatest flaw is that it doesn’t quite meet the lofty expectations set out for it. However, the sky is still the limit for BØRNS. If it is any indication, you can see shades of Prince on “I Don’t Want U Back” without even squinting too hard. BØRNS may not be at the pinnacle of dance pop artistry just yet, but the potential is there. We just might have to wait until junior year to get it.
For fans of: Glass Animals, Lana Del Rey, hipster bars
Our take: Widely appealing single; deep cuts to sink your teeth into; sitars, theremins, and synth, oh my!