Photo Credit: Erika Kamano
Filipino-British singer-songwriter Beatrice Lauss, known professionally as Beabadoobee, is one of the most promising musical talents of the 2020s. Or was, at least. Her new album Beatopia, while hardly merit-less, lacks the focus, immediacy, and overall enjoyability of her last full-length release, Fake It Flowers (which this writer named as the best album of 2020, behind only Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways). That amazing self-assurance that she displayed in that previous effort seems to have somehow taken a beating on Beatopia.
Song titles on Beatopia are written as “the perfect pair”, “Don’t get the deal” and “You’re here that’s the thing.” But alas, intentionally bad capitalization won’t give any song more edge or distinction. It’s a further bad sign when the album opens with what sounds like a throwaway track, in this case, “Beatopia Cultsong”, an ambient-sounding cut on which the vocals are some weird, hush-y chant/rap. The uptempo “10:36” is a bit more promising, but tries to employ too many studio tricks, a common problem on this record (also in sharp contrast to her previous, some of which were so stripped-down that they almost came off as demos, yet still got every song’s point across).
The ballad “Sunny day” is a bright enough spot in the proceedings, and the aforementioned “the perfect pair” offers up an appealing ’60s-style bossa nova beat. On the subject of the Sixties, the heartfelt ballad “Ripples” might remind one of the writing styles of none other than Paul McCartney, utilizing what sounds like an orchestra, an element which then returns on “Lovesong.” But again, so much here reminds us of how much the raw energy of her previous album is missed.
Interestingly, it’s in the final third or so that Beatopia finally manages to come into its own, beginning with “Talk”, a solid rocker with a radio-friendly hook. “Fairy Song” continues in that vein, and while a track on the very same album entitled “tinkerbell is overrated” may then seem like thematic overkill, the song opens with a nicely weird orchestration before the tempo picks up and makes its way to a good point. That track also features PinkPanthress, another distinct up-and-coming young British singer-songwriter with a bizarre but memorable stage name. “You’re Here”, boasts a bluesy, acoustic 1920s feel and is undeniably a good album closer. But it’s a bit too little too late.
Through much of Beatopia, it almost sounds as though her success and acclaim as a performer have made Lauss less confident. Her slight voice had endeared itself to material that tried to be bigger than her musical persona (ultimately failing), but here that same vocal approach just comes off as needless shy and not up to the challenge. Or to put it another way, it seems as though it’s no longer the artist herself who’s upfront. While her previous album could be experienced as a fun, rocking blur, Beatopia – though just four minutes or so longer in length – is a bit laborious as a start-to-finish listen. With any luck, her next album will prove what we’re all hoping, that Beatopia was just an off-day.