Album Review: Beabadoobee - Fake It Flowers
I’m uncertain when, exactly, but it would have been toward the end of the summer, or beginning of the autumn, that I was introduced to Beatrice Laus, the singer and songwriter who performs under the name Beabadoobee.
There were two introductions, really, and then a converge of recognition.
The first probably came from seeing1 the name Beabadoobee attached to the song “Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head),” performed by the Canadian rapper Powfu. “Death Bed” is more or less structured around a pitched shifted sample from Laus’ first single, “Coffee,” a charming, borderline whimsical acoustic track released in 2017, when she was still a teenager. “Death Bed,” originally released last year, became what young people would refer to as a ‘viral sensation’ when it caught traction via the social media2 platform TikTok, eventually going on to become a platinum single in the United States.
Following the release of her early singles, Laus issued four EPs between 2018 and 2019, culminating in my second introduction to her—the coverage given3 to her new material, as part of the roll out to her full length debut album, Fake It Flowers—a blistering, damn near flawless, astoundingly lush and impressive collection of songs that effortlessly blends together the snarl of 1990s alternative rock, the woozy swoon of dream pop, and the infectiousness and accessibly of the best, and most fun kind of pop music. Fake It Flowers, is, at times, so good that it’s kind of overwhelming in the sheer size of some of these songs, the meticulous attention to detail in their structure and production, and the confidence yet contrasting lyricism from Laus.
Spread across 12 tracks, with the album’s final song, “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene,” truthfully being the least successfully executed of the bunch but is still very listenable, Laus has crafted an album that isn’t so much full of tension and release, but one that is balanced enough to know when to be unrelenting, when to practice restraint, and when to shift into something ethereal and gorgeous. The unrelenting nature of Fake It Flowers comes within the album’s first side—specifically within the first three songs. Really, no album should have this impressive of a three song run, but across “Care,” “Worth It,” and “Dye it Red,” Laus continues to build momentum until pulling things back, albeit briefly, for the interlude “Back to Mars.”
Laus is all of 20 years old, and there are times when her lyrics can be insightful, but one of the things that stands out on Fake It Flowers, outside of the robust arranging and instrumentation, is her sense of humor; there are moments where she does really show her youth in how punky and brash her lyricism can be—but it works, and it works surprisingly well. “Kiss my ass—you don’t know jack,” she sings, tenderly, with just a little bit of a sneer, in the opening lyrics to “Dye it Red,” and you’d think that it would be hard to take a song like that seriously, or even find enjoyment in it, but Laus is able to pull it off with the juxtaposition of the sardonic humor, the straight faced delivery, and the shimmering dream pop underneath.
Fake It Flowers wastes no time revealing its enormity with the gargantuan opening track, “Care.” In an interview about the song, Laus likens the aesthetic to an “end of a 90s movie,” and she’s right—rarely do you hear a song that soars this high, all while balancing the huge pop hooks it is based around in its refrain, and the ferocious but still accessible guitar chords pounded out.
Lyrically, there is not a whole lot to “Care,” but that is totally okay—it’s less of a lyrical song, and more about the feeling overall, and specifically, since it’s the opening track, the necessity to grab attention. While a bulk of the lyrics are based around the titular word, or the phrase, “Are you the same?,” Laus does sneak in a small taste of her scathing sense of humor: “I don’t want your sympathy,” she sings early on in the song. “Stop saying you give a shit, ‘cause you don’t really care.”
From there, Laus more or less doubles, and then triple, downs on the energy and magnitude of the album, with the swirling bombast of “Worth It,” and the brash, brazen “Dye it Red.” “Worth It” is one of the first moments on Fake It Flowers where Laus’ understanding of the blurry line of dream pop and shoegaze aesthetics is introduced—the oscillating nature with which the song is arranged would, truthfully, not sound of out place on a My Bloody Valentine record, but rather than teetering into a self-indulgent, noisy place, the song remains wildly listenable and fun. Lyrically, there is slightly more to unpack here, in comparison to its predecessor.
Laus writes it off quickly as being about ‘teenage infidelity,’ but there is more depth to it than that as “Worth It” unfolds—“Your eyes are just like his, but your face is a bit different,” she begins. “You’re a it more fucked, I guess that’s fine—maybe that’s what I want this time,” she smirks before the song’s expansive, sing-a-long refrain: “Don’t think we can be friends ‘cause you’re too pretty,” she says before adding, “I wanna see you again—I don’t know what I’m saying.”
While the first two songs are built heavily around infectious enormity, Laus begins to play with a ‘quiet/loud/quiet’ structure on “Dye it Red,” which she states is not an autobiographical song, but the relationship depicted in it is one of a friend. While the refrain of the song blasts off with shimmery guitars, the verses are based on Laus’ cutting sense of humor as she paints a vivid portrait: “Fuck me only when I’m keen,” she asks. “Not according to your beer.” Then, later, “Touch me as if you mean it, ‘cause I’,m getting tired of being all alone.”
Fake It Flowers really hits it stride right from the get go, really, but following a very short, acoustic fragment that provides a little bit of respite, the snarl of “Charlie Brown” begins, which is by far the album’s most ferocious, aggressive, and darkest track. Laus continues with the ‘quiet/loud/quiet’ format, but here, the verses aren’t even all that subdued, and the refrain is a pained caterwaul along with a torrent of distorted guitars. Moderately ambiguous in its lyrics, the title is a reference to the “Peanuts” comic strip Laus has tattooed on her arm—“Too bad that Charlie Brown has inked you up to slow you down,” she confesses in the song’s first verse, though just before that, she mentions secretive, old habits—self harm. “If I could die here a million times then what’s the point of trying,” she asks in the song’s bridge, which is echoed by the anguish and frustration of the simple, harrowing phrase repeated in the refrain: “Throw it away.”
Following the slick pop grandeur of the first few tracks, and an explosive detour, Fake It Flowers moves, as it heads into the halfway point, into some surprisingly gorgeous, sweeping moments.
The slow shuffling, aptly titled “Emo Song” introduces glitchy electronic undercurrents into the texture of the arrangement, whirring alongside the strums of acoustic guitar and steady percussion. With the pacing slowed down to a gauzy sway, it is nowhere near as infectious or enormous as some of the songs that came before it, but that’s the point—it is still has a ‘big,’ very lush sound thanks to the meticulous production values across the album, and even if it isn’t written around a memorable hook, it’s still the kind of thing that lingers, specifically in the song’s conclusion, where all the elements swirl together beautifully and Laus’ repeats the desperate phrase, “It’s all your fault.”
Probably the most arresting and cathartic moment on Fake It Flowers is found in the long, deliberately tense build up of “Sorry.” Opening with 20 seconds of near silence and instrument clattering in the studio space, the beginning of the song is uncomfortably intimate in the way it is produced—details best experienced through headphones, like the fragile yet confident way that Laus delivers her opening verse, or the rich, warm sounds of her pick strumming against the electric guitar. Everything about it seems heighten, or magnified in a way, making it seem like you are in the room with her as the song unfolds.
“Sorry” ushers in a run of songs on the album that feature the inclusion of string arrangements—here, they provide a dramatic punctuation as the traction from the song continues to grow until it absolutely explodes into a wall of theatrical dissonance.
There is a familiar, or a nostalgic feeling throughout Fake It Flowers, thanks in part to the inspiration it pulls from myriad elements of the mid-1990s, but perhaps the most nostalgic, or familiar feeling moments come from “Further Away” and “Horen Sarrison,” which are the most swooning and dreamy, and by far the most restrained songs on the album—coming as a sharp contrast to the fury that came immediately before it, and the energetic first half.
Musically, “Further Away” has the brooding, simmering dreaminess that wouldn’t seem out of place coming from a band like The Verve—specifically on Urban Hymns; however, it doesn’t serve as a bed for the post-Britpop pomp of Richard Ashcroft. In another startling example of razor sharp contrasts, Laus Paris this stirring, beautiful arrangement with surprisingly blunt, and at times, harsh lyrics: “Say what you want—it’s hard ‘cause it sucks. I’ll just pretend to give a fuck,” she sings in the song’s opening lines. “Maybe then you’ll try to stop.”
As Fake It Flowers heads toward its conclusion, there is one final gasp of that pop-infused exuberance prior to the end of the record, with the snarly, fuzzed out “Together.”
For an album as moody as Fake It Flowers can be, relying mostly on deprecating, angst-ridden, and at times, punky lyrics, there are two surprisingly tender, thoughtful moments to be found, tucked in near the end, sequenced back to back.
The lyrics to “Horen Sarrison,” a play on the name of her boyfriend Soren Harrison, come across as a bit of a saccharine contrast when you think about what else Laus’ has said on the album (“You call me up and lie again, like all the men I used to trust,” from “Emo Song,” comes to mind immediately.) However, the arrangement is sweeping and beautiful enough, and Laus’ voice is gentle enough, that she pulls it off seemingly effortlessly—another song that leans heavily into the densely layered Britpop sound, allowing the soaring string arrangement to become the focus the song at some points, rather than more traditional ‘rock’ band instrumentation.
It is a love song, yes, but there is also trepidation—“And I want you to know that I’m in love,” Laus coos on the song’s refrain. “But I don’t want you to feel comfortable.”
Fake It Flowers, as a whole, shows an exponential amount of growth from even Laus’ most recent material as Beabadoobee, like last year’s Loveworm EP, which is certainly excellent, but this time out, she is much more confident as an artist, and that confidence comes through in the song’s arrangements. She has, very obviously, come quite far from the bedroom recorded acoustic tracks recorded early on in her career, but there are still nods to those on the album—the short interlude “Back to Mars,” and the stunning and sparse “How Was Your Day?”
Sparsely recorded onto a four-track with just Laus and an acoustic guitar, with some additional atmospheric layers tossed in, one could argue that it’s too simplistic of a song—the chord pattern too easy, or the lyrics too cloying. However, much like the intense intimacy felt through experiencing “Sorry” through a set of headphones, there is a moment where Laus botches “How Was Your Day?” just slightly, and laughs a little as she sings the titular expression. It’s a small moment of honesty—a goof that feels like an inside joke we are being clued into, and even in it’s syrupy lyricism, there is a very endearing nature to the sentiment of care that comes through, and the layers that you can unpack, whether intentional or not.
“How Was Your Day?” is an honest reflection on a relationship, w/r/t things aren’t always perfect, and that will be times of difficulties—“Remember when we used to fight? And I miss getting angry at you,” she sings. “‘Cause at least I felt something new.” And presumably, this song was written and recorded long before we were living in a world of a pandemic, self-isolation, and social distancing, but here, as there have been so many times this year within songs about longing, eerie echos of what our lives our like now: “…We haven’t talked in a while—forgotten how you used to smile. What do you look like?,” she asks in the first verse. Then later in the second verse, “I can’t remember your smile. You used to kiss me—guess it’s not hard to believe…”
And even in its presumes simplistic structure, it is a very catchy melody, and there is something charming and almost reassuring in the way Laus lets her voice, and the song, literally slide from the verses into the refrain.
For the last few years, I have witnessed the growing collection of evidence that young women with guitars are going to save and reinvigorate ‘rock’ music moving forward—and Fake It Flowers is another indication that electric guitar driven music is, thankfully, no longer a boy’s club.
Fake It Flowers is an impressive, gorgeous statement from a relatively ‘new’ and young artist. Taken on its own, without any outside context, it is a rollicking, cacophonic debut album, masterfully produced by Laus, along with Callum Harrison, Joseph Rogers, and Pete Robertson. The attention to detail is absolutely wild, and it sounds like it cost a million bucks to make something this slick, yet this accessible and fun to listen to. Within the context of Laus’ back catalog of singles and EPs as Beabadoobee, it shows leaps and bounds of growth in terms of growth, maturity, and confidence with both lyric writing and musical arranging.
Spilling over with a sense of humor, huge, memorable, and fun hooks, and youthful exuberance, Laus has crafted one of the most surprisingly dense and fun albums of the year.
1- I would not have heard of this song, probably, without seeing it show up on what a friend was listening to on Spotify.
2- I am too washed to understand anything about TikTok. Like, I have no idea how it works or what the point of it is, or how songs can go platinum based off of being used in a TikTok video.
3- Beabadoobee, leading up to the release of Fake It Flowers, got a lot of coverage on Stereogum, which I am thankful for, but I have misgivings about that site because I personally think the writing is really, really bad a lot of the time; and if not bad, really ill-informed.
Fake It Flowers is out now on myriad formats via Dirty Hit.