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Each week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Beatopia, the sophomore LP from Beabadoobee.
Maturing is strange; no matter how much confidence you have in your own instincts, you will almost certainly be shocked which artifacts from your youth evolve from cool to uncool all the way back to cool again. Beatopia, the second full-length album from 22-year-old singer-songwriter Beatrice Kristi Laus, better known as Beabadoobee, is a direct product of that dynamic. The title refers to a fantasy world Laus created when she was seven years old, one she assigned cities and towns and its own alphabet (a hybrid of Chinese and Japanese characters). Laus was enthralled by the limitless possibility of a world of her own design, but following mockery from her peers, she retreated, assuming she would never speak of it again.
Now, 15 years later, Laus is once again ready to embrace Beatopia. She is now a breakout star in the very real world of indie pop. Her debut, Fake It Flowers, was greeted with widespread acclaim in 2020; today, given her high-profile cosigns and ability to generate TikTok catnip, she seems poised for an even bigger breakout moment. Flowers packaged Laus’ chewy, arena-ready hooks in guitar-forward ’90s-style rock arrangements, a sturdy formula that served her sound well. Beatopia, though, is thinking bigger, embracing the sense of invention and exploration that she was drawn to as a child without losing sight of her fundamental strengths. What Beatopia means, exactly, is never addressed explicitly, but it seems to represent a rejection of constraints; Laus is mining her inner child for inspiration, expanding her toolkit and sounding newly confident in her own skin.
The result is an album that registers as a natural continuation of Fake It Flowers without allowing itself to be handcuffed to that album’s sonic terrain. On the one hand, Beatopia never positions itself as a radical departure. Early single “Talk,” one of the album’s most insistent earworms, harnesses the fuzzy alternative rock that propelled Beabadoobee’s debut. The way it distills the messiness of young love is effortless, a reflection of Laus’ comfort in this space. Another single and highlight, “10:36,” covers similar ground: “You’re just a warm body to hold at night when I’m feeling all alone.”
But Beatopia is just as interested in nudging Laus into unexplored territory. “The Perfect Pair” covers similar relationship fatigue, but with an alluring bossa nova strut. “Pictures of Us,” featuring vocals from The 1975’s Matty Healy, is blanketed with a shoegaze-curious haze; “Ripples” swells with swooning strings. “See You Soon,” which Laus says was inspired by a psychedelic experience, is a dazzling early highlight; its textures are familiar, but Laus’ deft balance of dizzying euphoria and an unnerving loss of control indicates her newfound maturity as a songwriter.
Regardless of how exactly you categorize Beabadoobee’s various genre discursions, Beatopia’s anchoring force is her prodigious gift for melody. A handful of songs here could convincingly argue their case for song of the summer, and, given Laus’ assured navigation as a songwriter and the tracklist’s brisk pacing, the album never really stumbles into a lull. There is still room for Laus to sharpen her skills as a writer; a few songs register as echoes of better ones (“Lovesong,” though pleasant, tries to hedge its obviousness with self-awareness, to limited effect). But this album marks an impressive step forward for Beabadoobee, a winning collection of bubbly, kaleidoscopic pop that constantly feels vital and alive, wielding the infinite possibility of the world of Beatopia as its guiding force.
Alex Swhear is a full-time music nerd from Indianapolis. He has strong opinions about music, film, politics, and the importance of wearing Band-Aids to Nelly concerts.