Arts & Style

BROCKHAMPTON addresses love and controversy on iridescence

Following a packed year of releasing three mixtapes, touring the world and addressing accusations against a former member, the Texas-native boy band BROCKHAMPTON responds to their changing environment on the colorful album, iridescence.

Newly signed to RCA Records, BROCKHAMPTON offers up its unique sound with better and bolder production paired with the typically punchy lyrics from their multiple members, who stumble a bit when establishing their growing sound.

The boys have always danced around establishing a distinctive sound and aimed more for a collage of their influences. Snippets of Frank Ocean’s smooth rhythm and blues approach and Kanye West’s broad, genre-testing career can be heard in some regard on all tracks.

While it is interesting to see the next generation of hip-hop take on past powerhouses like Ocean and West, BROCKHAMPTON continually allows its ambition to run further than the actual product. iridescence isn’t prophetic in displaying BROCKHAMPTON’s fullest capabilities and reveals cracks in the band’s confident appearance, but its latest release introduces fans to maturing musicians.

Angst and fierce passion tend to be at the nucleus of BROCKHAMPTON’s music. Previous songs like “BOOGIE” and “QUEER” off Saturation Trilogy assault the senses with glitchy production and a cacophony of verses.

Continuing this disregard for harmonious edits, BROCKHAMPTON flexes its experimental muscles on tracks “BERLIN” and “WHERE THE CASH AT,” where members rally other, past crash genres like U.K. grime. Notoriously visceral members Joba and Merlyn Wood are the most prominent voices echoing off of iridescence, coloring in the soundscape with pulverizing vocals and explicit lyrics like “Couldn’t last a day inside my head/That’s why I did the drugs I did,” off of “J’OUVERT.”

After the initial stun of sensory overload, iridescence does offer moments of control and peace. Songs “THUG LIFE” and “TAPE” both opt for less distortion and pick up softer approaches. Glimpses into the sober side of BROCKHAMPTON set iridescence aside from previous releases and reveal lyrical maturity as the members discuss serious topics.

The virtual frontman of the group, Kevin Abstract, openly talks about the complexity of emotions in discovering his sexuality, from the initial confusion and anger on “WEIGHT” to blissful acceptance in “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM,” where he proclaims his love for his current boyfriend, Jaden Walker.

As the boy band reached explosive fame last year, they were also introduced to a new array of problems that are addressed on iridescence.

Dom McLennon laments the pain of criticism and the double edge of success on “WEIGHT” where he vulnerably confesses missing his mother and states, “The road to peace is filled with snakes.”

Abstract calls out the press and questions existing in the public eye on “FABRIC,” asking “Why the hell the BBC only write about me/When it comes down to controversy?/What about three CD’s in one year with no label?”

Among the new issues of fame that continue to bubble up for the members, one of the most shocking and altering challenges came earlier this year when BROCKHAMPTON removed member Ameer Vann from the group following accusations from Vann’s past girlfriends of sexual misconduct. No legal charges have been brought up against Vann, but in an official statement, BROCKHAMPTON said that it does not “tolerate abuse of any kind” and, referring to the victims, stated that Vann’s removal isn’t “a solution to their suffering, but we hope this is a step in the right direction.”

The group addresses this controversy on “TONYA,” where Abstract states, “My ghost still haunt you, my life is I, Tonya,” alluding to Tonya Harding’s career being damaged by scandal.

As these serious moments get prominently noticed on the record, BROCKHAMPTON still remains playful with the kooky and creative production of other songs like “VIVID” and “HONEY,” the latter including a surprising Beyonce sample. Cementing new territory as signed artists and oozing with confidence, BROCKHAMPTON shows that it isn’t afraid of old or new artists. With the impressively steered direction of songs like these, BROCKHAMPTON definitely has nothing to be scared of.

The juxtaposition of crazy, kaleidoscopic tracks to careful, cathartic hymns is a bit much for a casual listener, but where iridescence loses its footing in control, it makes up in quality. Largely reminiscent of past records, iridescence isn’t the solidifying record fans might have hoped for, but it does mark the beginning toward it.

BROCKHAMPTON recently scored its first No. 1 record with iridescence and if the group can keep up the maturing sound and controlled innovation, America may be presented with a new type of successful boy band.

October 5, 2018

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Sven Larsen


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