Photo Credit: Blackksocks for Rolling Stone
Once you get past her stage name – and you better give yourself some time for just that – you’ll find that new artist beabadoobee has, in this difficult time of 2020, delivered not just one of the best debuts of the year but one of the best new releases overall. At just 20-years-old, the Filipino-born British singer-songwriter Beatrice Laus on her first full-length album Fake It Flowers keeps it very real with music that recalls ‘90s female-led bands such as Belly, the Cranberries, Letters to Cleo and Sixpence None the Richer.
Opening cut “Care” is, just by the chorus, more than enough to get virtually any listener invested in what the rest of the album has to offer – and few, if any, will be disappointed. “Care” introduces us to the tight, hook-y stripped-down brand of power pop that the artist shows she’s here to deliver. The even more up-tempo “Worth It” more than lives up to its title and gives us an even better picture of the vulnerable-but-defiant character that the singer creates through her soft, inviting but strong lead vocals. On the subject of characters, “Charlie Brown” is neither the doo-wop classic nor is its subject Charles Schulz’s famed comic strip creation, unless it turns out that our favorite blockhead is either a tattoo artist or a drug dealer (“Too bad that Charlie Brown // Has inked you up to slow you down”). But despite the disturbing connotation, the track scores by hitting the listener with an explosive chorus, as does “Sorry.”
‘90s influences do abound on the album, as suggested by simply titling a track “Emo Song.” While “Dye It Red” musically might put us in mind of Hum’s 1995 alternative hit “Stars”, the very candid sentiments expressed in the lyrics (“F*ck me only when I’m keen // Not according to your beer”) might also invoke a much more current artist, specifically Lana Del Rey. The overall stripped-down feel of the production is mostly quite refreshing, although “How Was Your Day?” comes off – we can assume intentionally – more like a demo (even including the sounds of studio technicians speaking). Similarly, album closer “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene” seems like another unnecessary attempt to call attention to how comparatively unpolished a lot of this is. Still, on Fake It Flowers the pros well outweigh any cons.
Laus is not the first artist in recent years to explore a female-charged ‘90s pop-rock sound and employ elements of grunge and shoegaze (“shoegrunge?”), as fellow Londoners Ellie Roswell and Wolf Alice beat her to the streaming services by a decade. But as with that band, beabadoobee never comes off as being about nostalgia, but rather making great use of the sound from another era which is sorely lacking in a musical climate which seems to favor production over songwriting, atmosphere over immediacy and a sense of media spectacle over individualism. While it’s possible to compare her to any number of artists – both older and current – like her stage name, beabadoobee is ultimately in a class by herself. You probably won’t want to try saying her name five times fast, but on Fake It Flowers beabadoobee already promises to be an artist you’ll want to listen to over and over.