Beabadoobee’s ‘Care’: arena-baiting alt-rock stomper from Gen Z guitar hero

The first taste of Beabadoobee's debut album is here

Over the past few months, Beabadoobee’s rise to global stardom has largely been propelled by a song that isn’t even hers. Canadian emo rapper Powfu’s viral ‘death bed (coffee for your head)’ – a woozy bedroom pop jam that heavily samples Bea’s 2017 debut single, ‘Coffee’ – seems to be finding new life by the day. It has already soundtracked almost 6-million TikTok clips, and racked up over 700-million plays across streaming services. Since the release, Bea Kristi’s own material has gained renewed interest and she’s now the 60th most-streamed artist in the world on Spotify.

By anyone’s standards, a TikTok-conquering triumph with such tremendous numbers to boot is impressive enough in itself, but 2020 has also seen her pull off some more triumphs. In February, she picked up the Radar Award at the NME Awards, as well as supporting Dirty Hit label mates The 1975 for two sold-out nights at The O2 in London a month earlier.

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Bea has never been one to let the hype overshadow her raw songwriting talent, and the melodic ‘Care’, her first solo offering of the year, is testament to that. Opening with a muted guitar lead and quickly building outward, the soaring track is enlivened by its jittery bassline and tight, hook-filled lyrics. Telling the story of a troublesome relationship, ‘Care’ intermittently reveals its spiky underbelly as Bea sings with indignation.

It’s a surprising progression that eventually slips into the sort of sparkling, yet scrappy alt-rock that has become her bread and butter, in the style of the breezy, ‘90s grunge-driven stompers that made up her last extended release, 2019’s bruising ‘Space Cadet’ EP. But this repetitive formula works time and time again; clocking in at three-and-a-half addictive minutes sustaining a grittier take on the distinctively jangly, washed-out rhythms à la New Zealand indie outfit The Beths.

Previously, Bea’s vocals have remained effortless and hushed, often embroidered with half-whispered edges. Here, she begins to move forward confidently; a cutting, ragged delivery accumulates momentum as it goes, vibrating over stacked harmonies, conveying the emotional frustrations she is singing about. “I don’t want your sympathy/Stop saying you give a shit,” she declares before the song’s first glorious drop arrives, “‘Cause you don’t really care”, allowing for the tension to rise rapidly at the end of each repeated refrain.

It also feels impossible to not be drawn in by Bea’s direct, compact songwriting. She approaches her distress matter-of-factly, “I guess I’ve had it rough”, she shrugs with insouciance. But by repeating incantations of “Do you feel the same?”, over the slow-burning bridge, you sense that she’s resolute in her attempt to direct a razor-sharp reflection on disappointment and pain.

As thrilling as it is vulnerable, ‘Care’ deserves a bright and long future as a staple for the arena-swelling crowds that will inevitably continue to greet her, post-pandemic. It is thrilling to envision the heights Bea is destined to reach.

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