Throughout the two to three years that Bea Laus went from uploading the song ‘Coffee’ to releasing her debut album Fake It Flowers in 2020, she has been referred to as a multitude of different genres. Under the moniker of beabadoobee, she’s been referred to as bedroom-pop, shoegaze-pop and even linked to the term bubblegrunge. A common descriptor used however, is “90s”, with comparisons to Hole, Liz Phair, Mazzy Star and a lot of the Seattle grunge scene. In some respects, you could also refer to her as grunge-pop.
With Beatopia, beabadoobee gets back to a sound not too dissimilar from her early bedroom YouTube days. A more softer, introspective offering that welcomes you to a more intimate and honest selection of songs. Whereas Fake It Flowers was fuzzy pop enveloped within shoegaze and grunge, Beatopia gets wrapped up in a more gentle – almost folk pop trapping.
Beatopia has, in a way that the words “almost” and “literally” both seem far too extreme and underselling, flipped the script. If said script was the amount of distortion on guitars and vocals. The word “flipped” itself feels nearly on the verge of being literal, as the short quiet introspective tangents on its predecessor are now the main sound of this album.
This is quite apparent with opener ‘Beatopia Cultsong’, which is a gradual easing into the album, immediately welcoming you into beabadoobee’s world that she’s been living in. To liken this back to 90s pop culture, imagine that scene in Jurassic Park when the characters travel through those large doors, but instead of the name of the aforementioned dinosaur amusement park, it’s the words “Beatopia”. That’s the image that this song can conjure up.
String arrangements, mandolins, violins, softer spoken moments litter the album. Album closer ‘You’re Here That’s The Thing’ conjures a feeling of a story set in Beatopia ending. Continuing the movie theme, you can picture the final shot of Beatopia zooming out into the sky, revealing a bird’s eye view of this land. A beautiful acceptance of a relationship blooming as the credits begin to roll. But compared to previous album closer ‘Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene’, it ends on a completely different (but very welcome) feel.
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It doesn’t explode as much as its previous album, but that is down to a growing world and universe that doesn’t want to be destroyed. And thus the album doesn’t want to go down that route too often. It can feel as if it’s building up to moments, but instead it twists your expectations with a surprise. Leaving the distortion pedals for brief moments not unlike when Rina Sawayama incorporated bursts of new metal in her Sawayama album a couple of years ago.
But it still manages to dip back and invoke some feeling of nostalgia. Some songs feel like they would fit right at home alongside Billie Piper’s Honey to the B album from 1998. A chilled out R’n’B adjacent vibe that gets introspective that would probably make a good soundtrack to help someone doing revision for their GCSE exams in a couple of years (an actual true story).
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Album highlights include lead single ‘Talk’ with it’s Fake It Flowers referencing grunge-pop chorus (and Papa Roach-referencing music video). ‘Pictures of You’ and its memorable chorus alongside backing vocals from The 1975’s Matty Healy provide the mid-album with a second-act closing set-piece to remain in the memory. ‘Don’t Get The Deal’ is another which has the Rina Sawayama technique of ‘distorted stings of guitar’ to accent certain parts of a song.
Those who got wrapped up in the fuzzy constant distortion of Fake It Flowers may be surprised by the relaxed nature of Beatopia. But going in with that mindset means you’re going to deprive yourself of an interesting exploration of genres and sounds that beabadoobee takes you to.
Beatopia is out on 15th July from Dirty Hit.