Last year, I fell into beabadoobee via her Space Cadet EP. My pal and Everything Is Noise PR manager Inter put me onto it. I really liked the energy of the songs, but also how gentle they were, channeling a bit of grunge and indie with a homey bedroom pop feel similar to nostalgic rock darling Soccer Mommy. It’s like when you walk into a friend’s room when you were a teen and there was posters and stickers usurping the walls, a bed with a cornucopia of varied pillows, and a welcoming, endearingly messy atmosphere that you didn’t mind, but also quietly enjoyed as it made you feel better about your own room’s disarray that was dwarfed in comparison.
There was also a keen mystery about the music. The first mystery was her name – beabadoobee. Bea was easy enough – it’s the singer-songwriter’s first name – but the rest? I’m sure there’s a couple interviews somewhere that house substantial answers as I’m also sure it’s a question she gets a lot, but I prefer to interpret it on my own. Maybe beabadoobee references a nickname she had as a kid. Or perhaps beabadoobee is an onomatopoeic translation for the rhythm your heart beats to when you’re in love. No matter your guess, the name is important on a more practical scale as the music Bea writes is built wholly from her own experience.
The second mystery is how she’s able to craft such fulfilling and comforting music at such a young age. Fake It Flowers is her debut album, but some of these songs were written when she was first learning guitar at 17. That may show to a more honed, pretentious ear, but to me it’s a snapshot into her late teen years. Now, here she is, 20 years old with a record deal and one of the strongest albums in this sonic lane of 2020. What were you doing when you were 20? Shit, what was I doing when I was 20? Nothing this cool or worthwhile. Nevertheless, it shows you shouldn’t write someone off for their young age or be so surprised when someone born in this millennium achieves something so great.
Fake It Flowers is an album that can bring about peace, make you stoically nod your head in understanding, or just shake some of the negativity out of your ears from thrashing your head about to the heartier rock-infused anthems on here. It all has a distinctly sepia tone to it, like a rare autumnal warmth with surrendered leaves covering all the paths you could take, so you just wander curiously, audible crunching under your feet all the way. It’s a slow dance with your memories, easily summoned with the ’90s vibes that imbues some of these tracks.
The lead single “Care” was a comfort, expected even, for someone like me who really entrenched themselves into beabadoobee‘s Space Cadet EP like I did. It’s an upright jam, something that could soundtrack the opening credits montage of a high school dramedy film whose denouement definitely takes place during prom. Guitars shimmer with just a little reverb or delay on them, Bea’s voice is front and center though not arrogantly so, and there’s a brutal honesty with just a tinge of angst in the words she sings – ‘I don’t want your sympathy/Stop saying you give a shit/’Cause you don’t really/Care, care, care, care‘.
As much as I like that familiarity and easing into what I would eventually see Fake It Flowers as, I really dove deep into songs like “Worth It”, which sounds like it could have had Natalie Imbruglia on it decades ago. It displays youthful curiosity in how it approaches cheating. You’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing – flirting, kissing, feeling… things – because you already have someone, but still it feels so right to you. The admiration of another, fighting those feelings even as you indulge in them, hoping the next text you get is from that person. It’s complicated, even if it’s so easily dismissed and condemned by those on the outside looking in. I don’t condone cheating and I’m sure Bea doesn’t either, but hey, it’s a pretty well understood feeling for most and it’s expertly captured here to the tune of a cradling pop rock lilt. Bea never claims to be perfect, and she’s all the more believable for it.
There’s so many moments like this on the album – like, almost the whole damn thing. I love “Dye It Red” which playfully calls forth the self-reinvention stereotype of wresting control and agency from a situation with a bad partner by cutting your hair and dyeing it a new color to represent a severing of the past. It’s a cheeky take on regaining self-confidence and admitting truths to yourself and others. I especially like the second chorus which includes the following lines:
‘I think I’d be better off alone
Now that I’ve had some time to think
I’ve had to put up with your shit
When you’re not even that cute’
I should mention that all along while Bea sings these stinging lyrics, she never loses her cool, literally or figuratively. There’s a cathartic, powerful hook on “Charlie Brown” that’s screamed to symbolize tossing away ‘old habits’ like self-harm and a purposeful trip into disarray on “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene”, but otherwise everything is delivered with tenderness, maybe a sly smirk for the more sassy parts and sailing up and down her calm register to match the emotional highs and lows exhibited. It allows her personality to show quite vividly in these tracks – you feel her guard drop in “Sorry”, you sense the childhood pain in “Further Away”, and you see the heartfelt connection in “Horen Sarrison”, a track dedicated to her boyfriend Soren Harrison (it’s also the longest track – perhaps a little wishful nod that they enjoy a long relationship together).
In the end, Fake It Flowers is immense; a tour de force that achieves what it does simply by being itself because Bea was being herself. It’s a chronicling of her life up to now, the things she’s felt, the people she knows, and the experiences that came with them all. It’s uniquely hers, but endlessly relatable to someone out there. That’s the beauty of it. It feels sophisticated and real, lacking a coat of sugar that a lot of pop-centered music puts on and getting right to the meat of the issues at hand. It pulls the empathy out of you because you either were this person or knew them, and you knew the tragedies that came with them even if the scars have long since faded. And if you still are that person, it’s a knowing, outreached hand to hold while you traverse your own off-beat and tumultuous moments. For some, that’s invaluable, and Bea gets that.
It’s pretty rare that a debut album sounds so confident yet so vulnerable. Fake It Flowers doesn’t have any space or time to be disingenuous – it’s too busy being affecting, relatable, and nostalgic, showing a youthful vigor that just can’t be tapped into as you get older, but you can always fall back to your bygone years and think, ‘wow, this really would have spoken to me when I was younger.’ It’s the letter you wish you could write to yourself a decade or two ago, when bright eyes began to feel jaded and the weight of existence started to bear down on your chest. beabadoobee has lived it, she knows other have and will still live it, and that’s a strong foundation on which to build a genuine, compassionate legacy. Go, Bea, go – I’m really excited to see where life takes you.