Album Review: beabadoobee – Beatopia
The London singer-songwriter releases her exciting sophomore album ahead of 3Olympia and Ulster Hall dates
“Welcome to Beatopia,” read the Spotify graphics. The album art resembles a child’s drawing with something that could be mistaken for Beatrice Laus’ face peering out among the chaos.
Just as Harry welcomed us into his house earlier this year, beabadoobee has given this record a definite setting. Beatopia is a busy, overactive place, maybe not literally representative of Laus’s mind, but definitely born from her imagination. The protagonist of the record is disorientated, repeating bad habits, struggling to reconcile her past with her present, but nevertheless welcoming us into her brain.
This disorientation comes to us in the form of a dissonant, static sound running through the record, sometimes embraced in busy, buzzy tracks, sometimes warring with brighter instrumentals and threatening to drown them out. It’s left to us to work out why it’s there.
Parts of the album hint at seasonal affective disorder, or SAD – “When it gets colder, I care less about me,” sings Beabadoobee in ‘Fairy Song’. In ‘Sunny Day’, a smooth R&B-inspired track with hints of Corinne Bailey Rae, she sings with the voice of someone who looks forward to the clouds clearing as an opportunity to mend neglected relationships.
Other tracks point us towards a dysfunctional relationship, such as the excellent ‘The Perfect Pair’, in which bedroom pop meets bossa nova as Beabadoobee recognises all her worst traits in her partner. “And I’m not sure I like it, and I’m so tired of fighting,” she sings over a plucked guitar, before a crowded instrumental overwhelms the last thirty seconds.
But there’s a general, more relatable confusion in the protagonist’s mind, and it’s the jarring feeling of emerging from lockdown into a post-Covid world. ‘Beatopia Cultsong’, the album’s experimental introduction, takes us from a dreamy, folky instrumental to a confused overlapping of voices with the record’s signature static dissonance slowly building underneath. “Is it me or recently time is moving slowly?” repeats Beabadoobee.
Suddenly venturing into the outside world, complicated hookups and external responsibilities are back, and they threaten to overwhelm the world inside the narrator’s head, both literally and sonically in the form of a buzzing black cloud. A trip into Beatopia is a reminder of the journey that we’ve all been on this past year, and how hard it can be not just to find a new normal, but to revert back to the old.
It’s worth doing though. As beabadoobee reminds us in ‘Tinkerbell Is Overrated’, by far the album’s most lyrically dense track, isolation was apt to send us all a bit mad. Mentions of watching spiders in bedrooms, worrying about the state of friendships and smoking in bed are sprinkled playfully throughout the track, in which Laus recruits friend PinkPantheress to help tell the story.
In light of these memories, ‘You’re Here That’s The Thing’ sees beabadoobee heading back to her bedroom-pop roots to reframe everything that’s overwhelming her and decide that it’s all manageable. “You’re overcomplicating everything,” she tells the listener, or her partner, or herself.
In a closer that sounds like she’s skipping off into the sunset, she accepts that relationships can be confusing, and that she’ll always feel worse in the cold weather, but also that navigating her mind doesn’t have to come with quite so much dissonance.
Beatopia is out now. Find tickets for beabadoobee here.