Introducing synth-wave’s newest princess: Kat Von D
Once only publicly known as the tattoo artist on TLC’s LA Ink, it turns out that Kat Von D’s talent in the arts extends beyond the needle and the ink. With the release of her debut album, Love Made Me Do It, people get to see a more vulnerable side of the reality star through the lens of goth synth-wave.
The 12 songs on her debut are something of an ’80s science-fiction flick reborn. With the help of music veterans like Dave Grohl, Von D created this album with four other bandmates throughout the 2020 lockdown. A lot of time and a lot of help from music industry vets led to a synth-wave album reminiscent of groups like WAYFLOE and Nine Inch Nails.
The first track off the album, “Vanish Intro,” evokes images that could be from an American Horror Story episode: thick, black liquid spilling down the stairs of an old hotel and the sound of a frantic heartbeat, thanks to the steady percussion. It’s an instrumental song that simultaneously beckons and repels; the ebb and flow of each synthetic thump, either deep and low or crackling with energy. The last minute of the track takes a twist with the addition of an ’80s-inspired electronic drum set, crafting the end into a more modern and complex webwork of sound, pure ear candy for adults.
The second song is also titled “Vanish” and is a more fully-developed version of track one, with added vocals and lyrics telling a story of feeling ashamed and stagnant. The piano becomes the heartbeat this time, gentle and much more innocent feeling than the synth on the first track. “I don’t wanna walk, I don’t wanna run/ cause I’m afraid of falling in front of everyone,” Von D sings. Sweeping strings come through on the chorus, highlighting the sadness in Von D’s voice. It’s not until the last two minutes of the song that things come full circle, and both forms of “Vanish” merge, making what started as a singular song of sadness turn dark, like Von D is sinking deeper and deeper into guilt with every beat.
“Protected” begins with the sound of light rain falling on the ground. An old-sounding piano leads listeners toward the familiar heavy synth sound, with a steady electric beat dropping across scales. This track is hypnotic and ethereal with its layered harmonies. Featuring a duet with a male singer, the heavy synth continues on, digging deeper like droplets of water into a chasm, steady in its chord changes. Von D’s voice itself has a layer of haze added onto it, creating a sort of AI singer sound. “Protected” gives off an even more futuristic edge than the songs before, a love story from the year 2156.
“I Am Nothing” starts off with the return of the muffled, vintage piano, this time dueting with a more modern one; the result is a satisfying clash. “There’s a picture of us that I can’t throw away/ a perfect day where I felt so unafraid/ there was nothing we could do to stay the same now,” Von D bombastically sings, like a sultrier Olivia Newton-John.
“Easier Sung Than Said ” starts like a fairy tale, with electronic beats trickling down like specks of snow or rays of light, paving the way for more direct, heavy synth beats. Von D’s husky vocals add a satisfying edge, sounding like revolving planets as she oscillates between each earbud. It’s more delicate than the other songs on the album, as Von D’s voice isn’t as effects-laden, which provides a nice break between tracks.
On the closer, “The Calling,” Von D sings of there being no one there to rescue her, nowhere to belong; it’s a realization that Von D has a calling beyond a significant other. It’s a strong anthem of independence and a bittersweet end to the album.
With her synth-wave debut Love Made Me Do It, Kat Von D is establishing herself as someone more than just a reality TV star, but a musical force. The only fault is that some of the more intense, heavy techno gets repetitive to the ears, quickly turning from epic to dull. Von D could have used more variety in her uses of synthesizers, like in “Easier Sung Than Said,” to break the monotony. But overall, this is a great album for those who like that dark techno sound and is an impressive foray into synth-wave by Von D.