Arts, Features

REVIEW: beabadoobee’s ‘Fake It Flowers’ proves ’90s rock transcends its era

London-based music artist beabadoobee has already taken on a number of different personas —
the acoustic-wielding, lo-fi solo singer; the young bedroom pop vocalist and now, a rising grunge-inspired rocker. Her studio debut album, “Fake It Flowers,” was released on Friday, cementing the artist in a Gen Z wave of alt rock and adoration for ‘90s sounds.

“Fake it Flowers,” London-based singer beabadoobee’s studio debut album, was released Friday. ILLUSTRATION BY LAURYN ALLEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

At 20 years old, Bea Kristi epitomizes the return to an earlier era of rock music — from her clothes to her attitude to her own musical sound, Kristi puts forth heavy, layered guitars and banging drums to produce an album drenched in loud rock reminiscent of ‘90s female-fronted rock bands such as The Cranberries, Veruca Salt and Garbage.

Under the independent record label Dirty Hit, beabadoobee was supposed to be on tour with The 1975 this spring, but those plans went awry. Luckily, the months of stagnation in her family home led Kristi to write songs and produce her first full-length album.

In the weeks leading up to the release, Kristi put out five stellar singles, most of which are stand-outs on the arena-ready album.

“Care,” the first single, which debuted in July, set the stage for “Fake It Flowers” — introducing stylistic changes both lyrically and musically. It’s noticeably more produced, which departs from previous works in Kristi’s discography.

Other notable singles similar to “Care” are “Worth It” and “Together,” the latter of which was released just last week. Both are harder-hitting rock songs ready for the stage, especially because Kristi was anticipating performances with The 1975.

Once the 12-track album formed, those singles accurately predicted what the full scope of the project would be: a grungier, edgier beabadoobee, but with the same vocal and lyrical quality we’ve seen on past works, including her most recent rock-inflected EP, “Space Cadet,” which almost predicted this tonal change.

This departure could jeopardize the allegiance of her old fan base, who were drawn to her bedroom pop, self-made music only a few years ago. Her first-ever song, “Coffee,” recently went viral when it was sampled in the pop-rap song “death bed (coffee for your head)” by Powfu, which is now Kristi’s most streamed song by millions.

Regardless, beabadoobee comes in arms blazing, guns swinging on “Fake It Flowers” — much denser instrumentation and loud guitars accompany her consistent, trademark vocal performance. Her growth as a songwriter is most notable on the track “Dye It Red,” where a smug, new in-your-face lyricism is prevalent.

Here, Kristi begins the song with the bravado of “Kiss my ass, you don’t know jack,” which points to this new charisma and confidence that her new sounds and aesthetics showcase. The song is bold and picks up this idea of accepting oneself and leaving a toxic relationship, attitudes that again, remind us of strong ‘90s frontwomen, maybe even Alanis Morissette.

When Kristi does shy away from hard-hitting, punchy hits on the album, they don’t necessarily land. “Back to Mars” seems almost like an interlude, and adds little to the direction or theme of the album — it’s almost as if the slower single “How Was Your Day?” predicted the middling quality of these softer tracks on “Fake It Flowers,” just as the other singles had foreshadowed her entry into harder rock.

Similarly, “Further Away” seems out of place on the record, directing attention away from the dramatic and instrumentally alluring tracks on the album, which dominate but are less impactful because of these melodic breaks.

What “Fake It Flowers” needed was a closer, a kicker that stressed the vibe and finalized Kristi’s transformation. And we got that with “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene” — a track that’s both a little absurd but also self-aware, giving an authentic glimpse into the artist herself. The title, which is a reference to the names she envisions for her future children, is full of shouts and screw-ups that feel gritty and just really fun.

Despite the superficial differences in her look and the experimentation with her own sound as she finds her musical footing, beabadoobee is the same Bea that fans have adored — she is reachable as a person and an artist, she is thoughtful without being self-aggrandizing and she is low-key with just about everything. No one likes a serious rock star.

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