On a collaborative EP with the 1975’s Matty Healy and George Daniel, the former TikTok phenom devotes herself to the ambiance of late-’90s guitar-pop.
Like a Marvel origins film, beabadoobee’s 2020 debut Fake It Flowers moved its protagonist from Point A to Point B—in the London-based songwriter’s case, from TikTok phenom to album-rock revivalist—with a few genuinely thrilling moments along the way. And where many would-be star vehicles cede authorship in pursuit of big singles, Fake It Flowers was a cohesive statement, even if it established beabadoobee as a revival act. The crunchy rhythm guitar on “Charlie Brown,” the rubbery drumming on “Care,” and the dizzying open tunings of “Dye It Red” called back to a specific post-grunge window spanning 1993 through 1996; working with producer Pete Robertson, bea was Juliana Hatfield in a pair of Fila Disruptors, Glen Phillips espied through a filmy VSCO filter. It’s not a dig to say it was style over substance, because on Fake It Flowers, the style was the substance.
Unable to tour on their debuts, a number of beabadoobee’s class-of-2020 peers have already announced follow-up EPs, bolstering catalogs for 2021 festival dates. The winking title suggests a digressive escapade, but Our Extended Play feels like a minor landmark for bea as well as for the 1975’s Matty Healy and George Daniel, the project’s producers and co-writers. It’s a smart move for both parties: arena-rock gods of the 2010s find fresh context for their euphoric pop in beabadoobee, herself an eager student of MTV-era hits. Like its predecessor, Our Extended Play is a conscientious period piece, alighting on late-’90s guitar-pop. It’s slightly more British-sounding, a lot more jangly; for better or worse, any one of these songs would be at home in a Freddie Prinze Jr. movie.
The rapturous single “Last Day on Earth” sets the tone. The three-chord jangle bears strong whiffs of “There She Goes,” “She’s So High,” and “All You Wanted”; like those songs, it finds a hook within 60 seconds and never looks back. The lyrics (“I want to get fucked up at home/Be naked alone/And turn up my phone/’Cause this song I wrote is just so fuckin’ sick”) are proudly inane—to say nothing of the wordless chorus, which sounds like a reference track left intact for its sugary simplicity, an acknowledgement that overthinking it would kill the buzz. It leans so far into the aesthetic that it’s practically a parody, zooming past Halloween and landing on Scream.
Where Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail’s submersion in the sound of the late ’90s often contrasts with their delicate songwriting, beabadoobee is fully devoted to ambiance: the mid-August haze is the focus. Our Extended Play’s sparkly production complements bea’s blissed-out abstraction, particularly after Fake It Flowers’s more somber tone. It also redeems some of the EP’s goofier miscues. Healy’s delirious call-and-response bridge on “He Gets Me So High” is tonally inconsistent with bea’s earnest verses yet lends a trajectory to the buoyant arrangement; “Cologne” is so coy and syrupy that it could be a long-lost B-side to “Lovefool.” On occasion the music feels market-tested, straddling a few too many demographics at once—chords and vibes still take precedence over ideas. beabadoobee has all the time in the world to hone her writing chops, if she wants to. But for right now, it’s summer and everybody’s wearing giant jeans again.