Never underestimate the power of TikTok. The application’s geopolitical controversies aside, it’s helped launch or boost the careers of many up-and-coming musicians. Lil Nas X, Joji, Beach Bunny, Blu DeTiger and others owe much of their success to the short-video platform worshipped by Gen Z. As Time noted, TikTok signs licensing deals with record labels for usage of their songs on the app, which then results in royalties for artists. But this structure heavily favors artists signed to major labels, meaning all TikTok can really offer the average artist is exposure, and hopefully, in turn, an increase in other revenue streams: Spotify, YouTube, show tickets, merchandise sales, etc.
London-based artist beabadoobee (aka Beatrice Kristi Laus) saw her Spotify listenership shoot up dramatically after Powfu sampled her 2017 song “Coffee” for his track “death bed (coffee for your head).” It was the first song she ever wrote on guitar, and she now boasts 18 million monthly listeners in large part because of it, which is a frankly mind-boggling statistic in comparison with other major artists: The 1975 have 10 million monthly Spotify listeners, ABBA have 12 million, Frank Ocean has 14 million, Metallica have 16 million and Twenty One Pilots have 17 million. This means she’s one of today’s most-streamed artists, particularly in the rock genre, where only bands like Imagine Dragons, Coldplay and Maroon 5 can top her numbers.
Though TikTok brought her an army of fans, most of beabadoobee’s new songs don’t sound like “Coffee” or her other early lovey-dovey acoustic tracks. By 2019, beabadoobee was making wispy, ’90s-inspired rock music, taking cues from Lush, Pavement and Veruca Salt. She’s now signed to Dirty Hit, was shortlisted for the Brits’ Rising Star Award, opened for Clairo and The 1975 and has released her debut album Fake It Flowers. If you’ve been following the British music press over the past few years, you’ve already heard her name dozens, if not hundreds, of times—it was obvious people believed in her music right from the start. After her early bedroom recordings and a series of EPs, her five-track release Space Cadet arrived in 2019, which ditched her more lo-fi, intimate quirks for a bigger rock sound, embracing the vocal stylings and melodies of Soccer Mommy and featuring The 1975’s Matty Healy on guitar.
You’ll still find some of the otherworldly keyboard hisses and acoustic moments that defined her early work on Fake It Flowers, but it’s clear beabadoobee is swinging for the fences this time around. The first two tracks, “Care” and “Worth It,” are some of her punchiest songs to date, with the former leaning on a bubbly chorus with stop-start guitars and the latter centered around a 1975-like synth pattern and more guitar explosions. She’s not much of a lyrical whiz, but her vulnerable, straightforward sentiments are more important than the lines themselves. She gets most of her power from her ultra-chic, gauzy vocals, which are effortless and contrast with the harsh guitars rather well.
Fake It Flowers is about her various romantic experiences, with the first two thirds describing (and often scorning) people she was involved with who are some variation of fucked-up and the last third devoted to the fulfilling love she found and still believes in. One of the album’s central questions is how we can protect ourselves while also giving in to our desires. This curse plagues everyone who dares to search for love, but especially young people who are still finding their way in life and are often told via movies and television that we’ll bump into our eventual lifelong lover who will shield us from all our pains at a party.
On “Dye It Red,” she’s at risk of losing her individuality in a relationship she’s not even invested in, and she ultimately chooses herself. (“Let me cut my hair and dye it red if I want to / I haven’t found myself so comfortable / I’m not stopping now”). “Care” finds her frustrated when someone only pretends to sympathize with her trauma (“I was seven to think about it / The fact I still can’t forget about it / I don’t want your sympathy I guess I’ve had it rough / But you don’t really care”), and “Sorry” finds her struggling to watch someone close to her stumble over the same roadblocks she had to conquer (“You stayed in the same dark place that I adore / But you stayed for more / I guess that’s what happens to the best of us”).
beabadoobee also celebrates the sentimental but meaningful moments that some might scoff at: missed text messages (“Worth It”), braiding hair at the beach (“Back To Mars”), the smell of her boyfriend (“Horen Sarrison”) and future baby names (“Yoshimi Forest Magdalene”). She celebrates cliches and complexities with equal reverence. She even boldly named a song after her longtime boyfriend and music video collaborator by simply reversing his initials (“Horen Sarrison”). It’s the exact kind of plucky, somewhat goofy move you’d expect from a 20-year-old, but it’s heartwarming.
Most of the songs on Fake It Flowers center on a hi-fi, textured rock sound with anthemic choruses. Songs like the wailing, aggressive “Charlie Brown” and the sugary “Dye It Red” really connect, but some are lacking in personality and urgency, which makes the record sound more homogeneous than it actually is. There are also moments of studio chatter and string accompaniments that don’t really suit the songs, but were seemingly added to bolster the nature of an album with so much anticipation behind it.
In a crowded field of ’90s-indebted indie rock singer/songwriters, beabadoobee stands out with her dainty voice and desire to make big hi-fi songs in a time when lo-fi is all the rage. She may not be the most compelling lyricist among her peers, and her melodies place her squarely in the middle of the pack, but when she’s at her best, her sparkly songs reach incredibly catchy heights and exude clarity about a confusing time in one’s life. With Fake It Flowers, she’s on the cusp of something great, and only time will tell which side she falls on.
Lizzie Manno is an associate music editor, Coldplay apologist, bread obsessive and lover of all things indie, punk and shoegaze at Paste. Follow her on Twitter @LizzieManno