Renowned American sensation changes tone on album “Blue Madonna”
The Santa Clara
January 18, 2018
Pop singer-songwriter Garrett Clark Borns (stylized as BØRNS) returned with his sophomore album over the weekend. Filled with stories of love lost and found, and peppered with references to Biblical texts, “Blue Madonna” has the makings of a dreamy, hit pop album.
BØRNS opens the album with “God Save Our Young Blood,” which features fellow pop sensation, Lana del Rey. BØRNS and del Rey share a duet that makes a plea, presumably to some higher power, to let them live in the paradise of youth forever. Perhaps, now at 26 years old, he feels pressured to leave his youth behind and develop a more mature approach to life and music.
“I feel like we’re living in a time of increasing speed and there’s no slowing down,” he said in a comment on the lyric site Genius. Additionally he comments that his lyric “climbed up the tree of life / kicked out of paradise” is a reference to “the epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ about leaving the Garden of Eden,” continuing the semi-religious title of the song.
BØRNS is a spectacular example of modern pop because he takes common lyrical and musical themes and transforms them into his own unique sound. Even the theme of moving through romantic relationships gone awry is somehow revamped in his pure falsetto voice. “Second Night Of Summer” is perhaps the best example of his ability to capture the moments and the emotions that many pop songs can only touch on in their lyrics.
The song opens with a synthesizer, but quickly adds the chiming of a piano as the vocals begin. Immediately, the listener is given the impression that these lyrics were not rehearsed at all.
They have the feeling of a stream of consciousness—the listener is a passenger on BØRNS’ emotional journey. In addition to the shift in vocal tone, BØRNS adds the rumble and crash of a bass drum and cymbals as his anger comes in its first small wave, crashing over his shoulders, pouring into the piano. BØRNS transitions from a fantasy about what the girl he loves is doing now to frustration and even anger at her for thinking he’s “not cool enough.” The music follows suit. By the end of the song, he sounds about as angry as one can be within the genre of dream pop.
Though he creates mostly modern electric pop music, BØRNS still holds onto some of the old-school styles of American singer-songwriters, many of which are descended from a folk tradition of mandolins and guitars. While multiple songs on the album utilize guitar sounds, the gentle strums of an acoustic guitar on the track “Bye-Bye Darling,” combined with the song’s acoustic piano track, to create an atmosphere of nostalgia.
The acoustic instruments go well with the memories of talking on the phone to a loved one. As the song winds down, BØRNS emits a gentle laugh and continues the song with just bass and piano before continuing on to the most interesting decision he made as a songwriter on the entire album.
BØRNS concludes the album without resolving the final chord. In fact, the last few songs together built up a lot of tension and lead to the unsatisfying, incomplete ending of “Bye-Bye Darling.” However, I think that
BØRNS might have done that intentionally. A process of tension-building and release are essential to songwriting.
There has to be a journey for the listener to follow. Examples of this include the switching between clean and distorted guitar tones, as between verse and chorus like in Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit, and the well-known built up and “drop” common to the EDM scene. Without the release of tension, the song, or in this case, the album, feels a bit unfinished.
BØRNS seems to invite listeners to add their own resolution to the album. It’s as if the last chord of “Bye-Bye Darling” propels the listener out into the world to solve their own problems, or even create their own music, to resolve the tension built by the album.
While BØRNS might just be setting himself up to conclude the ideas behind “Blue Madonna” in a third album, it is still a beautiful thing to see art inviting more art.
Contact Ethan Beberness at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.