Beabadobee’s greatest strength as an artist is how she experiments with duality. The Londoner’s exterior is as soft and delicate as the rotating pieces of floral print dresses and distressed sweaters she showcases on her Instagram. In contrast, songs like “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus” and “Are You Sure” showcase clashing amped-up guitars and microphone bursting drums. They’re rougher, harsher and unexpected, à la the thorns on the rose.
If one were to look at her fashion at a glance, one would never know that beabadoobee’s most prevalent artistic inspirations are morose indie darlings like Elliott Smith and Pavement. That’s not to say beabadoobee only operates within the confines of punk flare.
Beabadoobee’s ascension to stardom came largely due to her feature on lo-fi rapper Powfu’s song “death bed (coffee for your head).” The track samples the chorus of beabadoobee’s debut song “Coffee.” Seemingly overnight, the song became one of Tik Tok’s quintessential viral hits, accumulating over 10.2 billion plays on the platform and over 730 million plays on Spotify. It also was used in a Dunkin’ Donuts TV advertisement.
Beabadoobee’s ability to make acoustic lullabies on one track and then opt for noise rock on the next is rare. However, this has placed the newfound sensation in a bit of an identity crisis. Should she make soft, catchy tunes that propelled her to the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 or indulge in her rock influences?
On “Fake It Flowers,” beabadoobee attempts to do both with varying amounts of success. It’s a rather mucky nostalgia trip through 90s rock and early-2000s emo. In attempting to hit both demographics, “Fake It Flowers” doesn’t succeed in satisfying either.
Although these criticisms are harsh, “Fake It Flowers” isn’t a completely joyless listen. “Worth It” is the song that has personally stayed on repeat since the album’s release. The confessional lyrics on teenage infidelity and Avril Lavigne-esque guitar riffs capture a coming-of-age feeling that would be a perfect soundtrack for whatever the next hit young adult film is.
It’s also refreshing to hear beabadobee’s voice in an indie rock genre that’s mostly dominated by white men. Beabadoobee’s solemn and raw reflections on lovelust and growing up will touch the hearts of those going through the psychological pressures of the hectic world we live in. Although the instrumentation has the tendency to get generic, beabadoobee’s perspective is anything but.
The greatest struggle of “Fake It Flowers” is the oddities of its song structures. For example, in “Sorry,” beabadoobee bears her soul and laments over her troubled and drug-infused teenage life. The lyrics are heart-wrenching, but the instrumentation fails to match. The repetitive four-chord electric guitar becomes grating since it’s the only instrumentation — other than the faintest sound of strings — present for the first two minutes of the track. After the second chorus, the track explodes in a cacophony of noise rock glory but fails to keep the momentum. This rousing breakdown pops up every couple of measures, teasing the listener by reminding them how great the track could have been.
“How Was Your Day?” is an equally disappointing listen. The best aspect of the track is how raw it feels. Recorded on a four-track tape, beabadoobee’s voice teeters on a tightrope, at times losing its balance when notes become pitchy. This balancing act is beautifully honest. The only other instrument on the track, the acoustic guitar, fails to deliver the same emotional punch, as it is just another four chord loop for most of the track. What starts off moving becomes monotonous as the track drags along for four minutes.
The same story can be said for most of the tracks on “Fake It Flowers.” “Emo Song” has a brilliant, somber performance but sterile synths. “Further Away” showcases beabadoobee accepting herself for the individual she is with poetic verses, but it also has lifeless, reverb-heavy backing tracks.
Beabadoobee is an extraordinary songwriting talent who still has much work to do in terms of instrumentation. The most telling quote from the leadup to “Fake It Flowers” is from an interview with Popspoken where beabadobee states, “Sometimes I literally write a song that sounds exactly like a song from [the ‘90s]. And I’m like, I cannot use this song because it is a genuine rip-off.”
This sentiment unfortunately rings true for “Fake It Flowers.” It offers glimpses at punk rock gold, but it fails to capitalize on the momentum that invigorates punk music. Its softer tracks are scatterbrained yet honest, but its acoustics are dull and bland. The album’s lyrics are heartbreaking, honest and inspired, but the instrumentation is unimaginative and pedestrian.