By Mar Buquez, ’21
It is almost impossible to address self-titled boy band, BROCKHAMPTON’s, 4th studio album, Iridescence, without addressing the mass turmoil that’s surrounded the album and the evolution of the group after the departure of founding member, Ameer Vann, following abuse allegations. Starting off their North American tour without Ameer, the group struggled to perform, ultimately cancelling the tour and shelving plans for their 4th album, originally titled “Team Effort,” (Later changed to Puppy, Pencil, Best Days of Our Lives, and finally Iridescence) fans were worried that they would be unable to capture that magic of the highly-regarded Saturation Trilogy. However, while Iridescence may not stack up to their earlier albums, it has not lost that signature BROCKHAMPTON sound.
Known to open their albums with high-energy bangers, NEW ORLEANS is no exception, and while it lacks the rabid, unbridled energy of BOOGIE or HEAT, it gives every member a chance to showcase their talents (along with Jaden Smith featured on the hook). Despite a strong opener, the album quickly finds a number of issues, primarily throughout the first half, with songs like THUG LIFE and SOMETHING ABOUT HIM which felt half completed, and less like the slower, more emotional BH songs we know and love. But my main gripe with the first half is that it lacks cohesion. NEW ORLEANS goes straight into THUG LIFE, and on first listen, I was taken aback by the complete switch. Not every creative decision improves an album, and I was left wanting another high-energy banger, or at the very least, a simmer down song.
Despite a weaker beginning than their earlier releases, it isn’t long before the boys find their rhythm, particularly on WEIGHT, where they remind us that they DO remember how to write emotional verses without sacrificing quality. They jump right into DISTRICT, hitting hard and fast, but the highlight of the album is J’OUVERT, which feels quintessentially BROCKHAMPTON. The production is immaculate and the beat switch gives fun Latin vibes that I wouldn’t expect from anyone else but them. While the production is great, the song also puts a spotlight on the evolution of JOBA and Bearface.
The first two 199X releases both end with an Bearface’s iconic singing, but at a certain point, when does “iconic” become “overused”? Even diehard fans were slightly disappointed by Bearface’s lack of evolution during these singles and worried the album would be full of that repetitiveness, myself included. But it wasn’t long before my worries were washed away, with Bearface rapping for the first time, even if they are incredibly short verses. Though, the real highlight of the album is JOBA, taking his special brand of mental instability, turning it up to 11, and dropping manic verses that I can’t help but get hyped to. He overwhelms every song he’s on, giving some of the strongest verses in terms of both flow and lyrics, both a result of his improvement, and other members’ regression.
While the album’s production is still just as good, if albeit more experimental and less accessible than the SAT Trilogy, there were much less standout verses to me. Kevin Abstract is still just as present throughout the album, but unfortunately, his hooks are not, an element that rounded out and defined their earlier work. Matt Champion, who had stepped up during the 199X releases, and I had expected to cushion the brunt of Ameer’s departure, falls back into his calm demeanor. And after hearing what he’s capable of, his verses just don’t hit as hard as they could or should. Despite my highest hopes, I must admit that some songs would have been more memorable with Ameer’s input, such as TAPE, though I don’t necessarily miss him, but rather his more traditional rap persona and flow that could have just as easily been replaced with someone like Pusha T. Moving forward, I hope BH can acknowledge that features aren’t something to be scared of and use them less sparingly throughout, especially under a label like RCA.
Finally, the latter half of the album contains some of the best BROCKHAMPTON songs I’ve heard to date, with envelope-pushing production, stronger flows and verses, and better album flow overall. I won’t gush over each song individually, but it is safe to say that the boys still got it, and I hope they move forward with more songs like HONEY and VIVID. Even TONYA, which was performed live on Fallon earlier this summer, had undergone some mastering and came out stronger on the album because of it (This may undergo yet another release if Merlyn’s tweets are accurate). If this improvement means anything, it’s that BH is capable of putting out projects rapid-fire, but they should reconsider whether they SHOULD, since they have a habit of leaving songs feeling incomplete.
At its core, Iridescence is not an album for us, it is an album they made for themselves, once again backed up by their twitter posts, and they acknowledge that it may not appeal to everyone. Iridescence may exclude more traditional hip-hop fans, but that’s the beauty of BROCKHAMPTON to some, is their malleability and ability to make music that’s authentic to them, not to a genre. While I hope they continue to improve on the strengths of this album and move away from its weak points, all I ask is that they remain true to themselves. Calling themselves a “boy band” may feel like an ironic statement, but their sound is constantly evolving, and rather than have the ill-fitting title of a “rap collective,” they are truly redefining what it means to be a boy band.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Best Songs: J’OUVERT, FABRIC, VIVID, NEW ORLEANS, HONEY
Worst Songs: SOMETHING ABOUT HIM, THUG LIFE