Alexandra Savior – Belladonna of Sadness
For a 21-year-old putting out her first record, Alexandra Savior already seems to have made some major strides. She’s releasing Belladonna of Sadness through a major label, Columbia, and has enlisted the undeniably A-list talents of James Ford, he of Simian Mobile Disco, and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner to handle production duties. Ford and Turner, you’d imagine, already have a collaborative shorthand given that the former has worked on every Monkeys record since their sophomore Favourite Worst Nightmare and also produced The Last Shadow Puppets’ Everything You’ve Come to Expect last year – on which Savior herself co-wrote one song, Miracle Aligner.
This first album of her own certainly showcases her songwriting chops and some cuts here – the singles especially – are carried off with real verve, not least M.T.M.E. and Mirage. Her languid drawl of a vocal delivery belies just how short in the proverbial tooth she is and suits the landscapes that Ford and Turner have designed for her; everything sounds cinematic and expensive, all burbling synths on Audeline and juddering beats on Cupid. There’s very much a neo-noir feel running right the way through Belladonna of Sadness. Here’s the thing – remind you of anybody? Major labels, of course, are only ever following the money, which is why we ended up with the Adeles and Duffys of the world when Amy Winehouse made it big, and why Jack Garratt and James Bay emerged as if from nowhere in the aftermath of Ed Sheeran’s meteoric rise.
It’s hard not to think that Belladonna of Sadness, stylised as it is to within an inch of its life, is not a fairly straightforward grab for some of Lana Del Rey’s market. It’s not the album’s coldness that lets it down in that respect – Del Rey herself is hardly the most profoundly genuine artist in the world – but rather that Savior seems suffocated by the very strict parameters that have been drawn for her, by herself and others. Her ability’s apparent, but she needs room to grow; remember how diverse Sky Ferreira’s debut was? She isn’t going to find that space as long as she’s playing such a strictly-scripted part, especially when she’s not doing so altogether convincingly. That the title of this album sounds like something a Del Rey song title generator might come up with really says it all.
Listen to: Mirage, M.T.M.E.