BY ISABEL PODOLSKY
It’s nearly impossible to listen to beabadoobee’s debut album, Fake It Flowers, without mentally staging a teen rom-com.
20-year-old songwriter and guitarist Bea Kristi, who releases music under the name beabadoobee, knows exactly how to convey the emotions that define Gen Z in the form of angsty, boisterous pop-rock anthems. Over the course of four EPs released under indie label Dirty Hit, beabadoobee’s sound has transformed from mellow bedroom-pop – “Coffee,” later incorporated into the viral TikTok hit “death bed (coffee for your head)” – to pop-punk reminiscent of the 1990s. Her song lyrics, though, still feel as young as she is.
This album, released Oct. 16, has no features and no theatrics: it’s just beabadoobee, her guitar and her stories. On album opener “Care,” a self-described “angry-girl anthem” that’s also the album’s first single, the pre-chorus “I don’t want your sympathy / I guess I’ve had it rough / But you don’t really / Care” establishes beabadoobee’s personality. She’s defiant and rejects pity, but she also craves recognition. “Worth It,” a playful exploration of teenage infidelity, and “Dye It Red,” a feisty repudiation of insensitive boyfriends, are similar torrents of emotion. Heightened by an electric guitar-heavy instrumental, the listener is hit full force with anger, giddiness, curiosity, frustration; essentially, this triad of songs encapsulates the experience of being a teenage girl, and it’s the album’s most cohesive moment.
The songs following the first three tell the same story without the verve. “Back to Mars,” an interlude originally intended for beabadoobee’s 2019 EP Space Cadet but saved for this record, includes the lines “Take me to the south of France where we could just be old friends / We’d go to the beach and you could braid my hair.” It’s saccharine, a jarring transition from the cheekiness of “Dye It Red.” To then slide into “Charlie Brown,” which features some of beabadoobee’s rawest and most powerful guitar playing on the record, makes “Back to Mars” seem even more out of place. Contrary to what the beginning of the album suggests, however, “Back to Mars” isn’t the outlier. After “Charlie Brown” there’s a noticeable tone shift; the songs become softer, more reminiscent of Spotify’s “Chill Hits” playlist than of the ‘90s pop-rock sound that seems to define the beginning of the album. Case in point — back half of the album is heralded by “Emo Song.” Strings and the obligatory ukulele join the electric guitar and the sad girl loses her edge.
That isn’t to say that the second section doesn’t have its bright spots. beabadoobee reveals her impressive talent when she lets her masterful guitar playing take center stage. On “Sorry,” what would have been a nondescript apology is transformed by a passionate electric guitar solo that carries through to the end of the song, where the guitar tapers off in a feedback-heavy squeal. “Horen Sarrison,” an ode to beabadoobee’s boyfriend, dabbles in cliche metaphors, but the subtle electric guitar riffs add an intriguing touch. And “Together” features an instrumental that feels primed for a summer beach party or a nighttime drive – it’s a needed jolt of energy in an album that, for the most part, is devoid of headbangers.
Much like beabadoobee’s lyrics, the album itself is caught between two places. While thematically similar, her pop-punk mingles awkwardly with her slower ballads, and the former is far stronger, musically. The album reveals that beabadoobee has plenty of potential as an artist, but she would benefit from the singular sound that suits her talent best – songs like “Worth It” and “Charlie Brown,” where her electric guitar amplifies her emotions.