Review | BROCKHAMPTON - GINGER
The hardest working boyband in show business is back after nearly a year long hiatus, an eternity in the context of their timeline. Their fifth studio album GINGER marks their return and simultaneously represents how much can change in a year.
BROCKHAMPTON have a whirlwind and troubled history. The groundbreaking and idyllic Saturation Trilogy of 2017 soon gave way to a 2018 plagued by scandal and pressures. Ameer Vann, a key player in the success of the Saturation Trilogy, was dropped after allegations of sexual misconduct. Vann’s departure came not long after the major signing of a $15 million recording contract with RCA Records. iridescence arrived in September 2018, the collective's first major work since the upheaval of early to mid 2018. Whilst it did have some sincere cuts like TONYA and WEIGHT which addressed the turmoil of the previous six months, it was a rushed album made in a week at London’s Abbey Road studios. iridescence came off as an outlier for the group, a project completed away from the familiar communal territory of Los Angeles. The alien status of iridescence was also not aided by a noticeable stylistic change for BROCKHAMPTON, especially due to the absence of Vann. Fast forward roughly a year and we have GINGER. Inspired by an unlikely creative muse in Shia LaBeouf, the album polarises the relative innocence and continuity of the Saturation Trilogy with severe emotional density and a lack of structure, which provides mixed results.
The first half of the album is a rollercoaster but an enjoyable one nevertheless. “No Halo” and “Sugar” feature some solid hooks that draw the listener in straight off the bat, reminiscent of the memorable opening cuts of “Heat”, “Gold” and “Star” off Saturation I. “Boy Bye” is lifted by solid performances from each vocalist in the group, as well as the production team pulling their weight through the inclusion of a shoulder-bopping plucked string melody.The inclusion of UK wunderkind Slowthai is a nice touch as well on the fourth track “Heaven Belongs to You.” After this however, the inconsistencies begin to ring true. Promising production qualities seem to not be fully executed to their potential, explicably seen on “St Percy” where the intro suggests a banger incoming, but when incoming becomes the present, the most notable extensions production-wise are a chant and simplistic drums and melodies. “I Been Born Again” is also underwhelming. A hookless ramble of verses and pedestrian production left a sour taste upon its release as the album's first single as it appeared the group had departed from their tried and true formula of catchy hooks orchestrated by main man Kevin. Upon the release of the album it is evident the band hasn’t lost their ability to hook listeners effectively, but that still doesn’t give “I Been Born Again” a free pass out of mediocrity.
Negatives aside, there is still remarkable moments on this album. “Dearly Departed” is one of the greatest songs BROCKHAMPTON has released. The emotional sincerity of the track is a delicate and graceful expression of the underlying individual issues members have dealt with since the scandal of Ameer Vann. Dom McLennon here performs one of the verses of his career with some raw emotion felt through headphones and speakers all around the world. Dom’s career-defining performance is preceded by one of the most moving hooks of BROCKHAMPTON’s discography from Joba. Furthermore, if “Dearly Departed” is listened to in sequence after the moving outro on “If You Pray Right” by Kevin, the experience gained is improved tenfold.
On the whole, GINGER isn’t a bad album at all, but for BROCKHAMPTON’s standards it isn’t the best. Even Kevin seems to acknowledge the necessary evil of the band's situation at the moment on “Dearly Departed”: “And I must keep creating truths and hooks to get up out of this hell for myself.” Despite this concerning remark and the increasingly cheerless themes running through the most recent offerings from the band, there is still an undeniable level of hope and talent oozing out from this record, seen particularly through cuts like “Boy Bye” and “Dearly Departed”. The burning question for the future is whether or not the boys can somehow corral themselves to iron out the inconsistencies.
Best Song: Dearly Departed
Worst Song: I Been Born Again