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Remember how important film soundtracks were in the ’90s and early 2000’s? It was an era when inclusion on the soundtrack to a teen or superhero film often equated to an instant mega-hit or an association with a prestige film could launch an entire career. The period’s biggest movie, Titanic, featured a song almost as colossal as the boat, while Good Will Hunting pushed virtually unknown songwriter Elliott Smith onto the Oscars stage and Singles shined a light on an entire burgeoning rock scene in Seattle. In 1999, Blink-182’s inclusion and subsequent cameo in American Pie helped boost their quickly growing public profile, while movies like Romeo + Juliet and Batman Forever also launched hugely successful singles from the likes of Garbage, U2, and Seal. And it wasn’t always for the better, like 2002’s Music from And Inspired by Spider-Man, which boasted a single from Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger that has since sold around fifteen million copies worldwide.
Clicking play on “Care,” the first single and opening track on Beabadoobee’s debut album Fake It Flowers, there is something instantly familiar that draws back to this (mostly) bygone era of rock-centered film soundtracks. And that’s exactly what Bea Kristi set out to do while writing the album. “I think music and film go so well together,” she tells me over the phone. “I’m a very visual type of person. I just think it would be super badass if I was able to write a song for a film. That’d be a dream.” The song itself embodies all of the staples of a good soundtrack: a start and stop chorus as the film’s main characters put their hands in the middle of the huddle before the big championship game, a ripping solo underneath the montage of the game itself, and a build-up to the final explosive chorus as the team scores the winning goal.
Where many musicians would say that there was a specific band or concert that encouraged them to pursue music, Kristi was instead inspired by how music could be utilized in films to heighten the emotion or comedy of a scene, but also have a life of its own outside the setting of a film. The lightbulb moment came while she was watching the 2007 film Juno, perhaps the last entry into the aforementioned “soundtrack era” (the album hit No. 1 within a month of its release and has since gone on to sell over a million copies). “That made me realize I really wanted to make music like that and to play guitar like that,” she recalls. The event sent her down a rabbit hole of discovery, both prompted and enabled by the ubiquity of streaming services and the ease of finding any artist’s algorithmically curated related artists.
Soon, Kristi had jumped from the Juno soundtrack deep into the studio work of that album’s breakout, lo-fi indie staple Kimya Dawson and her band The Moldy Peaches. She then transitioned toward heavier alternative acts like Veruca Salt, My Bloody Valentine, and The Smashing Pumpkins. All of these influences are seamlessly incorporated across the twelve tracks that make up Fake It Flowers, resulting in an album that is simultaneously the most modern and nostalgia-inducing release of 2020.
After gaining buzz and momentum with a series of EPs over the last several years that landed her slots on tours with artists like The 1975 and Clairo, everything changed for Beabadoobee in 2019 when her early track “Coffee” was sampled in the chorus for Canadian artist Powfu’s “Death Bed.” The track promptly went viral on TikTok and broke the top 20 on charts in nearly 30 countries worldwide. Just like that, the bubbling singer-songwriter exploded into a full-blown star. “It was very, very fast and in such little time,” she recalls. “Everything was so overwhelming.”
She retreated from the spotlight to her parents’ house in London, where she doubled down on writing Fake It Flowers. “I felt like I had to write an album just for my mental health even, because I just needed to get things off my chest.” Where her early EPs represented Kristi’s mindset in the moment of putting pen to paper, Fake It Flowers instead takes on a wider approach, encapsulating a period of introspection and examination of Kristi’s life up to this point.
You can hear the chaos throughout the album, as Bea masters the loud/soft dynamic that some say was popularized by Nirvana (which in turn was lifted from the Pixies, but I digress). She even calls Fake It Flowers a “female album,” channeling the vocal stylings and arrangements of fierce female alternative rock icons Alanis Morrissette and The Cranberries’ Delores O’Riordan. Some tracks rage with the fuzzed-out, heavy instrumentation that hearkens back to alternative rock staples of mid-late ’90s, while others take on a more reserved approach, giving Kristi’s vocal space to emphasize her deeply personal and reflective lyrics.
In fact, each song can be viewed as a standalone narrative from a moment in Kristi’s life — the infectious “Worth It” tells the story of a failing long-distance relationship, while the reverb-drenched “Dye It Red” revels in the temporary comforts one can find in a change in physical appearance. “Sorry,” on the other hand, is firm in its declaration of prioritizing one’s self, even if that means separating from someone entirely, building from just a single guitar to the onslaught of overdriven guitars laced with intense feedback and brash percussion.
The album is versatile in its delivery method, giving the listener many opportunities to engage with and latch on to Kristi’s lyrics, ideally to serve as a source of inspiration and a sense that you might not be alone in your feelings. “If one person can relate to at least one song on this album, that means I’ve done something right,” she explains. “The whole idea behind Fake It Flowers is something I was supposed to tell someone, but couldn’t. Writing this album helped me a lot with my problems, and hopefully, it can help someone out there too.”
With her debut album, Beabadoobee has created a project that is an epic film score for growing up, never shying away from the difficulties of coming of age that are the same for everyone, regardless of whether that period was in the ’90s, or the 2020’s. As for the classic film soundtrack she wishes she could have written for? “But I’m a Cheerleader because they only chose female artists. And basically the whole film, it’s a comedy, and they’re really fun songs and really dancey type songs, and there’s sad ones. And I feel like I’d want a song from Fake It Flowers to be in that movie. That or The Craft.”
Fake It Flowers is out October 16 on Dirty Hit. Pre-order it here.