beabadoobee is one of those artists that has such a command over nostalgia without really trying or making it feel cheap. Though born in this millennium, her music has a knack for invoking those ’90s indie/rock waves with all the vigor and attitude of a teen. On Beatopia though, we see Bea Kristi dig into more of the nuances of growing up, dealing with love, loss, self, and more, shedding some of the fairy tale perfection we may believe in or wish for as young adults, and softening things instrumentally in the process without losing what makes her so likable. Bea’s lived a life and she’s not afraid to tell us about it so far – it took two of us, me and Carlos, to delve into it more.
David: Hey Carlos, how are you doing?
Carlos: Hey David! All good on my end – just taking things easy, really. Super pumped to venture into this charming little world that is Beatopia, though!
D: Yes, same here! I’ve been a fan of beabadoobee for a while now, starting with her Space Cadet EP. At the time, I was just super into the indie/grunge kind of aesthetic and I thought her take on it was really fun. I’ve thought that for her last couple albums too. What’s your history with beabadoobee?
C: It’s weird in my case. I’ve never been TOO into the grunge music scene (mostly referring to the ‘big four’ here), though I’ve found myself enjoying this recent alt/grunge revival quite a bit, bands like Modern Color and Teenage Wrist to name a few. With beabadoobee, I came across her music right when her debut full-length Fake It Flowers was released and, man, it’s the catchy songwriting that sold me in an instant. Even to this day, songs like “Worth It” and “Sorry” are in constant rotation. Since then I’ve listened to the rest of her releases and it’s all absolutely solid stuff!
D: Yesssssss, Fake It Flowers was phenomenal. I still go back to that a bit, and even did around me listening to Beatopia here. I guess I’ll lead off by saying that Beatopia didn’t originally grab me much, at least like her last album did. I know a large part of that was because perhaps I was expecting a bit more of the same and that’s not what this is. Overall, it’s a lot calmer, less reliant on that grungy attitude or tone, more acoustic and folk/popish. An easy enough transition to make, but a fairly unexpected one. How did you take to Beatopia at first?
C: I thoroughly enjoyed Beatopia upon first listen, though I do agree with you in that it was indeed an unexpected transition coming from her – took me a few more listens to really grasp on the overall sound of it. And it’s true, I also had associated her with the whole grunge aesthetic before approaching this record, making that first listening experience admittedly a bit jarring.
That being said, Beatopia is a wonderful addition to beabadoobee’s discography and continues to showcase her flare for engaging songwriting. I think I find myself gravitating more towards this record than her previous releases due to the breadth in many of the tracks here, and just the introspectiveness to her performance in general, music and lyrics-wise.
Was there a song (or songs) in particular that caught your attention or was the album a pretty steady listen through and through after spinning it for the first time?
D: At first, it was pretty steady, almost to a detriment, but like you I just had to take a few more listens to process and fall into what was on offer here. I liked “10:36” because it was closest to that Fake It Flowers sound (“Talk” comes close though). Still, I also appreciated how tender “broken cd” was. I really liked the approach to “tinkerbell is overrated” because it was dreamy and off-kilter. “Pictures of Us” is amazing with its more Midwest emo style melodies and guitar tone.
There is a lot going on here. Some of it still carries that ‘90s torch as well. “Sunny day” feels like it could have been on pop radio in the late ‘90s or early 2000s alongside artists like Natalie Imbruglia, Tracy Chapman, or even someone like Aaliyah or Ashanti. Whether we’re talking about vocal inflection, melodies, songwriting, there’s always a thread to draw to somewhere else, but it always coalesces into Bea doing her own thing and doing it well.
C: You pretty much hit right on the nail with that last statement. It’s clear that beabadoobee is not ashamed of wearing her influences on her sleeves, yet you’re also able to identify her musical identity through her songs with relative ease. It’s all part of the charm and why her music resonates, Beatopia included.
“10:36” and “Talk” are fantastic singles (and that drum fill at the very end of the latter? Come on!), and they demonstrate that her knack for crafting pure, unfiltered songs are still present here. I would also add “Don’t get the deal” in that bunch, though this particular song treads more into shoegaze territory, which is always a good thing in my books. Also, don’t get me started with “Pictures of Us”: After hearing that twangy guitar riff at the beginning, I was ecstatic, and I honest-to-god remained smiling like an idiot the whole way through.
That being said, I got to give my praises to that “See you Soon”/“Ripples”/“the perfect pair” sequence. The pacing and dynamics on these three songs are nothing short of endearing, and the arrangement choices, especially on “Ripples”, truly highlights the strength of beabadobee’s tender but nonetheless potent vocals. And this is without mentioning the maturity in her lyrics – the lines ‘you can’t blame the reflections and the ripples on the ground/I might as well have drowned’ off “Ripples” has particularly stuck on me throughout listening to the whole album.
D: Yeah, for “Pictures of Us”, I straight up thought Bea got Mike Kinsella for a feature or something. It’s a dead ringer for American Football stuff.
You know, I totally agree with you on that three-song sequence. It’s really beautiful, and just when you think you know the game the album’s playing, “the perfect pair” mixes it up with the melodies with this bossa nova/samba/ambiguously Latin approach that’s just wild, but works so well. It sounds like a song you’d hear in a coming-of-age teen dramedy – I’m almost certain I said something very similar about Fake It Flowers and I, again, mean it as a compliment.
In just a couple years, it really shows that Bea’s done some reflecting and growing. She’s 22 now – still quite young – but where Fake It Flowers felt rebellious and defiant in much of its energy and distillation of love, relationships, and sense of self, Beatopia feels more sincere, considerate, and vulnerable. That’s nothing new, but here it’s like she’s clearly learned a thing or two from living life in what I’m sure is a highly accelerated manner being in the limelight and all. I love “fairy song” for that because it just reads like an honest self-care checklist of Bea’s, even in the face of loss and torment, and avoiding the pull of listlessness and depression. Harder than it sounds, but a decent enough mentality to maintain.
C: I gathered the same thing after listening to “fairy song”, and I do believe that it’s this sense of self-awareness that elevates Beatopia. Like you said, it’s hard to grapple with a reality that seems to be this eternal spiral of uncertainties, ultimately putting you in a position of defeat. beabadoobee challenges this notion by letting go, moving on and accepting yourself as who you are, an act that’s arduous in and of itself, but nonetheless empowering in the long run.
I like how she shows no shame while doing so, either. There are songs like “the perfect pair” and “Talk” that illustrates toxic or contradicting behaviors we all have partaken at some point in our lives, or the fact that being vulnerable can, in fact, be a healing process, as revealed on “Ripples” and “tinkerbell is overrated” (which, by the way, I did not expect a PinkPantheress feature on that last song. That was a nice surprise!).
It’s really a wild ride going from Fake it Flowers to Beatopia, but it’s a musical progression that makes you go ‘yeah… yeah! That makes sense!’. If anything, it gets me even more excited to see where beabadoobee takes off from here on out.
D: Yeah, Bea’s positioned herself to really go into any direction she wants. She’s shown here, and in other spots and previous works, that she can work the tender indie angle very well, and she always has that grunge-tinged pop rock approach to turn to whenever she wants to put some more power behind what she wants to say. Not a bad place to be at all for someone as young as she is with what is hopefully a very fruitful career ahead of her.
Is there anything you didn’t enjoy as much with this album or was it all a pretty positive experience for you?
C: You know, and you had mentioned this song earlier already, but “broken cd” unfortunately did not do much for me. Granted, the lyrics are super relatable and beabadoobee’s intentions to focus on repetition to further emphasize the broken cd concept is a cool idea – and I do agree that the track has a warm demeanor to it that makes it very approachable – however it falls a bit short for me, at least in comparison with the rest of the tracklist. Still, the song wasn’t enough to wane my enjoyment of the album, not in the least bit.
In the end, Beatopia was a really positive experience for me. I found it to be an all-around great record and serves as a worthy introduction to beabadoobee’s capabilities in delving into other musical lairs, in addition to her trademark alt rock/grunge sound. If anything, this album further reinforces her standing as a talented and authentic singer-songwriter.
D: I would agree with that overall sentiment for sure, my pal. beabadoobee’s doing great things, I know she will continue to do so, and I think she has nowhere to go but up, perhaps exploring other avenues to pilot her always relatable, occasionally wistful thoughts and feelings on life. Beatopia is a place worth visiting for sure!