Beabadoobee - 'Beatopia' Review

The Mic’s Caradoc Gayer explores the world of Beatopia, the second full-length from beloved UK indie-star beabadoobee.


Bea Kristi’s trajectory towards indie stardom has always seemed like a bit of a fairy tale. Her first single as beabadoobee: Coffee, earned her a signing to Dirty-Hit Records. After a string of EPs and a Coffee sample going Tik-Tok-viral, she released her debut Fake it Flowers which peaked in six countries and preceded collaborations and tours with The 1975, Halsey, and Bleachers. However, despite this widespread success, beabadoobee has always seemed to keep her feet on the ground. Instrumental-wise, Fake it Flowers brims with her passion for 90s alt-rock and grunge, styles that she listened to growing up. Similarly, her lyrics are all based on her personal, coming-of-age experiences: covering topics like heartbreak, self-realisation and bad habits. This made for a compelling listen, albeit one that seemed a little gimmicky and somewhat painted Kristi as an archetype: the ‘indie-singer-who-does-the-nineties’. As a result, her second album Beatopia feels very exciting, as it’s the most sonically-unique beabadoobee record yet, but also the most intimate and personal.


The opening track, Beatopia Cultsong refers to the imaginary, fairy tale world Kristi created at seven years old, whilst experiencing schooltime loneliness and bullying. Suitably, the instrumentation envelops you in a dreamlike landscape: the folky guitars and hypnotic strings underly the vocals, ‘Is it me, or recently time is moving slowly?’ and the ambient noise of people talking in the background. According to the short YouTube clips that promote Beatopia, that background noise is actually Kristi and her guitarist/main collaborator Jacob Bugden, talking to their partners in-studio. With this in mind, Beatopia Cultsong seems like a poignant album-opener, that invites the listener into the studio space, whilst the song title and lyrics evoke taking stock of where you are in life and how far you’ve come. If Fake it Flowers evoked the overwhelming energy of indie-stardom, Beatopia’s opening track creates a more contemplative and introspective tone.




The next three songs feel similarly introspective. 10:36 reflects on human connection, whilst Sunny Day discusses overcoming relationship troubles, ‘Maybe tomorrow we’re okay, when it’s a sunny day’. The lyrics of both tracks are underlain by fragmented, electronic-tinged, lo-fi production (albeit the former song is electric guitar-led), making it clear how excitingly experimental the rest of the record’s going to be.


However, despite how attention-drawing those two songs are, the Taylor-Swift-approved album single, See You Soon seems like the best showcase of Kristi’s maturation as a songwriter. The hazy guitars and synthesizers evoke Slowdive or Beach House, whilst the lyrics are simple yet poetic, evoking a moment of emotional catharsis or realisation: ‘I guess I have to take it, I’m deteriorating, feeling blue. It’s a walk in the park, you said “It’s not that hard’.


The next track Ripples feels just as lyrically impressive, covering themes of dependence and self-realisation: ‘You said you’d let me drive your car as long I’m with you, then you’d wait till we get far to tell me that you’ll be gone soon’; ‘I’m sure now the people would listen as the water glistens and I see my reflection somewhat clear’. Georgia Ellery, of Black Country New Road, is enlisted to play strings on this track, offering an unexpected but enjoyable instrumental left-turn.


"The abstract lyrics make the song even more atmospheric: 'She reminded me that God starts with a capital, but I don't think I could do it all'"

This, arguably, is the best quality of Beatopia: it’s a roller coaster ride of many different genres, but still feels extremely cohesive. The song Pictures of Us, featuring the vocals of 1975-frontman-Matty-Healy, maintains the dreamy, contemplative atmosphere, but also goes in a new stylistic direction. The languid and emo-ish interweaving guitars evoke Bon Iver’s 2011-self-titled-record. The abstract lyrics make the song even more atmospheric: ‘She reminded me that God starts with a capital, but I don’t think I could do it all’. Beautiful stuff.


However, as is often the case with good albums, their biggest strength, in some ways, can function as their biggest weakness. Most of the songs on Beatopia feel like a self-contained world, in which Kristi experiments and plays with new sonic pallets, indulging her inner seven-year-old, that first thought of Beatopia. This leaves some tracks feeling a little too wistful and non-substantial. Broken CD and Lovesong are nice-enough-acoustic-heartbreak-ballads, but See You Soon already did something more interesting with that formula.




However, luckily enough, the last four tracks of the album are it's most stand-out. Fairy-Song and Tinkerbell is overrated are the two most enjoyably bizarre things Kristi has ever done. The former song lists personal maxims for life before the vocals are absorbed into a glitchy, electro-tinged breakdown, whereas the latter song is a duet with artist Pink-Pantheress. The song’s surreal lyrical imagery, of talking to spiders and crows, evokes becoming comfortable in your own skin, and with your personal idiosyncrasies.


Don’t Get the Deal is also a duet, this time with Bea’s main collaborator Jacob Bugden. It’s also, arguably, the album’s best track. Over a dance-y psych-rock instrumental, the two sing about how messy relationships can be, and of accepting that that’s the way things are. The explosive, made-for-live-shows breakdown somewhat emotionally emphasises the song’s message and brings the album to an emotional peak.


"It's an endearing acoustic closer that ties together a very sonically diverse album"

After that, the tongue-in-cheek, You’re Here that’s the Thing, emphasises communal vibes and the importance of human connection, via the optimistic tone and the chorus backing vocals. It’s an endearing acoustic closer that ties together a very sonically diverse album.


Certainly, at first glance, the fourteen-song track-list of Beatopia seems a little overdone and bloated. However, after an in-depth listen, the album’s length seems more or less perfect. Throughout the track-list, Kristi plays and experiments, wandering down musical tangents that her success has enabled her to explore. In doing so, she shows how she’s moved on from the past, which was the focus of Fake it Flowers, and is looking at the beauty of the here-and-now. It’s a fairly lovely statement on artistic and personal growth, and only indicates more exciting future developments for beabadoobee’s music.


Caradoc Gayer

 

Edited by: Roxann Yus


Cover image and in-article image courtesy of Beatopia press release. In article video courtesy of Beabadoobee via YouTube