As the summer comes to a close, welcoming in the delicate fall climate, students can reminisce and mull over various happenings of the vacation period. In the sphere of art, one occurence worth noting is on Friday, Aug. 23, the self proclaimed boy band BROCKHAMPTON released their fifth studio album, GINGER to the masses.
To preface, BROCKHAMPTON is an American rap collective consisting of fourteen members who met on a Kanye West fan page titled “KanyeToThe.” Vocalists include Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, JOBA, Bearface, Dom McLennon, and Merlyn Wood with a handful more working behind the scenes on web design, videos, and more.
In May, 2018, founding member Ameer Vann was disbanded from the group due to sexual misconduct allegations from former girlfriends. This scandal disturbed the band’s members greatly, shifting their sound from inventive pop-rap, to melancholy, self-searching sad-rap. The group has released two records since this incident, Iridescence and now GINGER. While both albums explore similar topics of depression, betrayal, and loss, GINGER expresses these ideas with some of their most personal and mature lyrics ever. While not every track is perfect, the amount of thought and care that each member put into this record, compared to that of Iridescence, makes this release an infinitely superior exploration of inner turmoil.
The first half of the album is pretty solid, opening with “NO HALO.” This was the fourth promotional single for the album featuring up-and-coming Spokane singer Deb Never. The track’s production lies in a simple, subdued guitar riff over various drums, and includes all of the bands’ vocalists.
Themes of struggling to move on from a romantic interest, feeling worthless, substance abuse, and religion permeate this track. The track’s title essentially implies that everyone feels like they have lost their ‘halo’ or their feeling of angelic innocence because of their issues. “SUGAR” is the tune that follows which takes a different tone. Featuring frequent collaborator Ryan Beatty, the song is an emotional pop ballad expressing the desire for a lover to call back. McLennon’s auto-tuned verse doesn’t work especially well with the song, but Abstract and Champion’s verses are welcome contributions.
The following number was the third promotional single for the album, “BOY BYE.” While this is definitely the most upbeat song on the project, the lyrical substance and erie guitar plucking indicate that the members are still slightly distraught. The next track worth noting is “ST. PERCY.” This is the first moment where I do not enjoy a song on the album. The jarring bass pattern throughout are too similar to that of “New Slaves” by Kanye West for me to see it as unique. Additionally, the hyper-relaxed performance by Abstract does not make the vocals worth coming back to, in my opinion.
Following “ST. PERCY” we get “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT,” the second promo single for the album, and I thoroughly enjoy it. The spicy marching-band horn melody joined with themes of monetary restriction and troubling childhoods make it a highlight for me on this album.
At track number seven however, listeners are blessed with “DEARLY DEPARTED.” If I were to pick one track that encapsulates the meaning of this album, it would definitely be this piece. To me, GINGER is the deeper, completer, and more mature expression of negative emotions that iridescence was trying to achieve. This track technically isn’t even a rap song, consisting of wailing, psychedelic guitar chords over a lethargic drum pattern. Most of the members give pained verses discussing family issues, death of grandparents, and betrayal by a former band mate.
More specifically, McLennon details how former member Vann was involved in having McLennon’s friend robbed in Texas; this performance gets so emotional for McLennon that he finishes by screaming into the microphone and storming out of the recording booth. All of these elements together are what make “DEARLY DEPARTED” the most beautiful artistic articulation of the album.
Unfortunately, the second half of the album is a compilation of fairly average BROCKHAMPTON songs, but as mentioned previously, the project isn’t perfect. For most BROCKHAMPTON fans, GINGER will be a hard sell. It doesn’t feature the bouncy, braggadocious, bops of their SATURATION trilogy, but that is because it communicates a different message.
Instead, it is a beautiful meditation on the issues that have been haunting the band since May, 2018 and that can be equally appreciated. The more time and effort put into this album, than into iridescence, is highly apparent thus making it a highpoint in the band’s discography.