My thought process, when confronted with Kat Von D’s first foray into the music world, is a wildly vacillating one. It starts with annoyance, at the one-percenters of the world pursuing creative outlets while the working stiffs who actually possess the requisite talents are too busy making ends meet. Just think of all the starlets and trust fund kids who become fashion designers or creative directors overnight, by way of example. This train of thought is immediately followed by remorse, as I know deep down that I shouldn’t be so cynical and should in fact just let people do what makes them happy, so long as it isn’t hurting anyone.
A few tracks into Love Made Me Do It and I start swinging back to my initial distaste, though, as the waves of distant, isolated and canned synth-pop fail to trigger the emotional response I so desperately crave in music. Soon, though, it’s put back in its box as I hear a particular phrase – be it musical or lyrical, like the way “I pray a little bit, but I can’t find my crucifix anymore” rolls off the tongue in “Lost At Sea” – that actually resonates with me… and so the cycle continues.
It’s hard not to enjoy a video where Nietzsche the sphynx cat plays the role of ‘Secret Love.’
As a result, it’s pretty difficult to come to terms with the record and form an objective opinion; it’s all too easy to step back entirely and deliver a technical breakdown discussing the arrangements, production values and overall ensemble effect two synths, a live drummer and a vocalist can produce – but this approach leaves out the necessary affectual response any music fan needs.
In this light, the best thing about the record is Kat Von D’s vocal performance, which is unexpectedly better than I anticipated: no obvious autotune, no karaoke-style singalongs and an authentic rasp that sets her well apart from a contemporary Florence Foster Jenkins throwing bags of money at a greedy audience. In fact, I would go so far as to say I am favourably reminded of Daddy’s Home-era St. Vincent, one of my absolute favourite female recording artists. Only complaint – a tad too much treatment on said vocals, such as the excess reverb on “Pretending.”
On the subject of voice, though, the standout track deserves its praise because of the guest performance: on “Protected” the unmistakable timbre of Peter Murphy (yes, of Bauhaus fame) provides a resonant and chilling counterpoint that does more than elevate the song – it sublimates it.
In contrast, “I Am Nothing” feels formulaic and overly angst-y.
Musically, there isn’t much else to say, unfortunately: synth-pop may have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the early 2000s – particularly among darkwave fans already enjoying the likes of Assemblage 23, Covenant or Diorama – yet still shows its electronic face in the work of mainstream artists like Lady Gaga, Dua Lipa or The Weeknd, but it hasn’t ‘grown’ as a genre. The same presets, beats, samples and loops Kraftwerk, The Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s are all still very much in evidence. The deciding factor comes down to the person behind the microphone and what they can achieve to set it apart from the rest of the shimmery morass of keys. Even the instrumental “Interlude” (which is a beautiful piece in its own right) with its layers of quasi-industrial textures and whispered background sounds is nothing Diary of Dreams or Deine Lakaien haven’t done years ago.
Coming from a visual background (Kat Von D’s historic rise to fame on the crest of tattoo reality TV is well documented), it’s no surprise that a lot of effort goes into the music video production. With four music videos accompanying the album (that’s one-third of the entire record set to visuals), expect a lot of Kat herself, her mixed bag bandmembers, glam-meets-goth costumes and, well, contortionists. Her team of art directors and stylists definitely had fun making these.
“Fear You” is easily my favourite on Love Made Me Do It, lyrically speaking at least.
In the end, while I do manage to get my fluctuating opinions under control, I am left with a less than perfect impression – and I do believe it all comes down to genre. Synthpop is just too saturated to make a standout impression and too upbeat to give the predominantly melancholic nature of Kat Von D’s themes the treatment they deserve. Love Made Me Do It is a pleasant, easy album to listen to despite its unhappy thematic content – but not a life-changing experience.
Love Made Me Do It Track Listing:
1. Vanish (Intro)
6. Fear You
7. I Am Nothing
8. Lost at Sea
11. Better Sung Than Said
12. The Calling
Run Time: 49:24
Release Date: August 27, 2021
Record Label: Kartel Music Group
The sumptuous “Enough” reads like a better-executed, higher-budget version of an Alphaville or Erasure video from yesteryear.