Filipino-British bubble-pop singer beabadoobee arrives fully formed on her phenomenal second studio album Beatopia.
beabadoobee‘s first album Fake It Flowers turned out to be a little disappointing. The heavily anticipated debut read as an ode to 90’s rock and dream pop. However, it failed to include the masses of potential that Bea Kristi had demonstrated in previous releases. The notoriously tough second album Beatopia is a different story. Named after an imaginary world she had invented for herself while struggling with a feeling of dislocation, Beatopia functions as a much more lucid showcase of Kristi’s artistry. Still with an affectionate grip on 90’s alt-rock, but this time making space for beabadoobee’s original creative offerings.
The opener to the record, Beatopia Cultsong is a meditative nod to the support network she is surrounded by. In one of the more experimental tracks, Kristi delivers an understated chant-like repetitive vocal on a bed of ambient noise. Not such a strong track in it’s own right, but it nicely sets up what’s to follow.
Named after the time Bea finished writing the track, 10:36 tells the story of a fictional relationship but deals with Kristi’s real struggle to fall asleep without human contact, even when this comes without affection for her (fictional) partner. It’s immediately quite clear that Kristi has fed this project with a deeper sense of self-awareness and a more personal touch. More alt-pop than alt-rock, a concoction of fuzzy guitars, a Nirvana-Esque lead line, and a tasty guitar solo make this an awesome way to get the ball rolling on the album.
Folk and R&B fuse on the third track. This lullaby-like tune features a great hook and a whimsical set of lyrics. Again Kristi is bringing a much-welcomed sense of depth that was not felt as strongly on her debut.
See you Soon
See you Soon is a deeply reflective track and an interesting jumble of style and nuance. Across the whole record, Bea is more brave and confident in her exploration of new sounds and genres, creating her own unique patchwork of sound. This is nicely demonstrated in this song, with the chorus embracing a folk ambiance.
“I wanted to be everything you see
But I went the wrong direction, you needed some affection”Beabadoobee on See you Soon
The lyrics for this acoustic guitar-led folk track were written with Matty Healy of The 1975. Bea explores her own struggle to be open with her friends, following a period of isolation from her friends and ex-boyfriend. A beautifully sad track, the strings on this are a really nice contribution, showing us that Kristi is capable of much more than her signature fuzzy alt-rock sound.
the perfect pair
One of my top tracks for this album, the Latin-jazz bossa-nova style on the perfect pair is again an interesting new exploration. Bea’s vocals are also great on this one, with the occasional vocal riff or run-off thrown in with flair. There’s a really nice build of energy through this track as the drums become more prominent and the strings enter.
Another gorgeously understated track on the record, Kristi wrote broken cd with the intention of it sounding like one. A relatively short passage of lyrics repeats, but each time the passage is recontextualized by the center lyric, so while listening to the same words, you end up hearing something different.
“Don’t think I’m over it, it hurt when I was seventeen
Flew by so quickly I could hardly breathe”Beabadoobee on broken cd
Another one of the album’s highlights, Talk goes back into Beabdoobee’s more signature style with fuzzy guitars and catchy pop choruses. You might not notice the drop in energy from See you Soon through to broken cd, but you certainly notice the increase here. The chorus on this one is a real earworm with a massive sound.
A relatively simple love song, there’s a really nice whimsical sound on Lovesong that’s a little reminiscent of Bea’s massive track Coffee.
Pictures of Us
Pictures of Us was actually a song given to Bea by Matty Healy. The lyrics on this one are simple but stunning, as are the transitions between the song’s different sections. You can hear the Healy influence on this one, with a sound not too far from The 1975’s The Birthday Party.
“She reminded me that God starts with a capital“Beabadoobee on Pictures of Us
Written about not remaining attached to negative feelings and events, fairy song is Kristi giving permission to be free from negativity and to embrace the opposite. Again Bea provides a great chorus for a track that does have a magical ‘fairy-like’ feel.
Don’t get the deal
Don’t get the deal features a conversational call and response vocal between Bea and her album-spanning collaborator Jacob Bugden. Typically something like this would sound quite cheesy, resembling a track on a musical score, but Bea really pulls this off well. What begins as a calm track quickly erupts into an anthemic chorus before returning to the conversational vocal on the choruses. I find that Don’t get the deal explores Beabadoobee’s newly embraced creative palette most clearly.
tinkerbell is overrated feat. PinkPantheress
Whether the bouncy feel of the lyrical delivery was the invention of Beabadoobee or the track’s collaborator PinkPantheress, it’s something that works for both of the artists really well. The chorus on this one is another earworm, brilliantly supported by PinkPantheress’ production style.
You’re here that’s the thing
Beatopia’s finale, and another track co-written by Matty Healy, this one is a light-hearted jingle sounding like something that could appear on the La La Land soundtrack. Beabadoobee cites this as the best track on the album, describing its purpose as the closing credits of a film. It’s a really nice way to end the album, not being left with Bea’s more traditional sound, but instead a celebration and lasting memory of her new sonic achievements on this project.
Beatopia is bold but shy, brash but considered, and peaceful but energetic. Here Beabadoobee proves herself no longer as ‘One to watch’, but as a fully formed and well-presented artist with a newly embraced exploration of influence.