November 8, 2020 / 9:54 pm

Written by Sam Bowden

Earlier this year, the song “death bed (coffee for your head)” by Powfu went completely viral on the social media platform Tiktok. The song was a chilled out, soft rap song with a sample from beabadoobee’s “Coffee.” At the heart of this song’s success was beabadoobee’s lovely voice. The lo-fi, earworm chorus helped propelled the song to nearly 800 million Spotify streams to date. This was many a fans’ first introduction to the filipino-British artist, whose full name is Bea Kristi, but her bedroom pop songs had already garnered attention from big name artists. She had already gone on tour supporting Clairo and was signed to The 1975’s record label Dirty Hit.

On her debut album under the label, Fake it Flowers, the artist takes a turn from her more lo-fi sound to more sophisticated grunge rock, with plenty of Y2K nostalgia. Entering the 2020s, the grunge rock and bubblegum pop of the turn of the century are now far enough in the past to resurface as sonic inspiration. Just this year, the bubblegum pop of labelmate Rina Sawayama’s SAWAYAMA and the post-punk of Porridge Radio’s Every Bad come to mind. Fake it Flowers exists somewhere between these two polarities, which some critics have labeled “bubblegrunge”.

For the most part, the sound suits her well. Album opener “Care” is one of her best songs to date, evidence of an artist growing into their sound. Some call back to the bedroom pop of her first four EPs, including “Back to Mars,” an acoustic love song that is far too short. Later, “How Was Your Day?” is another standout, a simple saccharine tune that easily gets stuck in your head. Other songs bring her into new territory, including the smash-the-patriarchy grunge of “Dye it Red” and the self-aware and personal “Emo Song.” At times, the artist’s simple lyrics and repetitive structures can become cheesy. The final track, “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene,” is a totally kitschy one where she spouts the names of her potential future children. But moments like these are part of the charm of beabadoobee, and her homage to the hopeless romanticism of ‘90s/’00s rom-coms.

This collection of songs is about working through trauma and mental health issues of the past, growing up and growing into one’s self, and being unapologetic in doing so. Most of the songs state plainly the emotions she is trying to encapsulate, no songwriting frills. On “Care,” she asks for those around her to stop faking that they’re concerned about her struggles. On “Sorry,” she apologizes that she couldn’t help a friend who was having it even worse than her. “Charlie Brown” brazenly rejects her past with self-harm. Through these earnest songs, Kristi invites us into her world by making grand statements out of personal experiences. Talking about the first song in a track by track walkthrough of the album, she says it is “an angry-girl anthem that I want chicks to rock out to in their bedroom, and to dance to, and to cry to if they feel sad.” By and large, she is successful in that wish throughout the whole record.

Fake it Flowers is a lovely debut that marks a new trajectory of how to become a star in 2020. Like similar artist Clairo, beabadoobee has followed the path of making intimate music in her bedroom (and incidentally achieving viral fame) to seamlessly making a more sophisticated studio debut. She certainly looks different than the typical rock star, too. An adorable, young, soft-spoken girl who doesn’t shy away from singing about her mental health issues is refreshing to see jamming out. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if this soon becomes the norm.