A Record Worth Waiting For

Five years after their self-titled EP release, indie supergroup boygenius shocked fans with their first album, the record.

In the greatest comeback since Adele (in our opinion), supergroup boygenius, which features Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker, has returned to the music scene. This comeback comes five years after the trio released their debut self-titled EP. While each member of the group has released solo music during this five-year break, (Bridgers released Punisher in 2020, Dacus released Home Video in 2021 and Baker released Little Oblivions in the same year), the collaborative album, the record, had fans waiting at the edge of their seats for a taste of the new music by the trio. We would say the long music drought was worth it in order for the girls to polish up the new album. The way the twelve songs flow together represents their showstopping talent and years of musical training. 

A recreation of the records, album cover. The group has tattoos of teeth on their hand to recognize their song “Bite the Hand,” that was featured on their self title EP. (Grace Garcia)

Released on March 31, 2023, the record explores several themes throughout the course of a listen. Love, regret, and acceptance are all themes strung into the lyrics, vocals, and chords of the album. The trio makes it clear that they have stories to share, and their growing fanbase proves their loyalty to them by sticking through the production process. In addition to their album release, the group announced a series of performances they would be putting on. Not only did they make their first big reunion on the stage at Coachella, but they will also be traveling across the United States and Europe for a tour this summer. 

“Without You Without Them”–“Please, take what I can give/I want you to hear my story/And be a part of it” 

Without You Without Them exemplifies boygenius’ ability to create comforting harmonies that showcase each individual member’s voice, making it the perfect start to the record. Because of how intimate the sound and lyrics are, the song initially reminded me of the early stages of friendship. The moment in time when you’re incredibly eager to learn more about your new friend and you’re starting to develop a real connection with that person. This song perfectly represents the relationship between friends that boygenius portrays to the media. They’ve all separately stated that they’re happiest when with each other. Without You Without Them had a very similar feel to the last song on boygenius’s EP Ketchum, ID. Both songs focused heavily on harmonies and had very few instrumentals. The main difference between the two is that Without You Without Them had a much more uplifting and heartwarming tone, making listeners excited to experience the rest of the record. 

“$20”–“Take a break, make your escape, there’s only so much I can take” 

Doing a complete 180, Julien Baker takes the lead on $20, which has a much more alternative sound than Without You Without Them. As a fan of her solo music, $20 truly does feel like a Baker song; Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers add depth to it. The beginning of $20 sounds almost nothing like the end, where Dacus and Bridgers are involved the most. Dacus and Bridgers help build the song up before it devolves into madness with Bridgers’ intense belting and chaotic, yet controlled, guitar outro. Hearing Bridger’s belt makes it extremely difficult to dislike the song, as it’s evident how much emotion and passion her voice holds. Every time I listen to $20 a clear, new visual pops into my head, which is something I haven’t experienced with any other boygenius song. The ambiguity of $20 makes me much more inclined to listen and it was definitely the right choice to release as a single.

“Emily I’m Sorry”–“And I can feel myself becoming/Someone only you could want” 

I love Phoebe Bridgers as much as the next teenage girl, but in comparison with the rest of the record, Emily I’m Sorry is underwhelming. As much imagery as there is in this song, I can barely envision any cohesive story or visual for it. There are some fantastic lines in Emily I’m Sorry, but as a song, it comes across as sporadic and random. After hearing Emily I’m Sorry for the first time, I was left with many questions. The song is filled with so much regret and has such a vague storyline that discomfort was the prevailing feeling for me after listening. It’s possible that Bridgers wanted to spark discomfort within listeners, and while I don’t think discomfort in art is a bad thing, discomfort with such little pieces to a big story is unsettling. All in all, Emily I’m Sorry is one of my least favorite songs on the record because of how unclear it comes across. 

“True Blue”–“It feels good, to be known so well”

To me, this song feels like a warm, long hug. This is Dacus’s first song on the record where her voice takes the lead while Baker and Bridgers sing backup. Not only does Dacus’s angelic voice give this effect, but so do the lyrics sung by the trio. Starting in the summer “heat,” this song covers the feelings one has while growing up, it touches on the process and progression of trust and also the feelings of unconditional love one may have for another. Dacus sings about the connection she has with the subject of the song, they know her well, and she “can’t hide from you (them) like I hide from myself.” This line in specific emphasizes the way trust is a crucial part of building relationships. Being vulnerable and your true self with others is challenging, but the way it strengthens your relationship with each other is highly beneficial. Being “True Blue” in itself is to be extremely loyal. Building this trusting and loyal relationship is something of importance to Dacus and no matter the mistakes either will make they are willing to move on from it because they both understand that this happens. Everyone needs a friend like Dacus in their life. 

“Cool About It”–“and now I have to act like I can’t read your mind”

This song follows a different strategy for the vocals. As opposed to the first quarter of the album where one member took the lead with the rest in backup vocals, “Cool About It” features all three members taking the lead in different verses of the song. Baker introduces the song, with Dacus filling in the middle portion and Bridgers closing the song. This difference in vocals lets each member have their own unique time to shine. The premise of the song is the unsteady course of an ending relationship, both the singer and subject of the song know it is over, yet aren’t ready or aren’t willing to do something about it. The relationship has taken such a downhill move that even “ask(ing) questions about work and school,” are difficult to conjure up. The trio wishes their partner in the song was just “cruel about it,” and willing to put an end to it right then and there. There doesn’t need to be any more of them dragging on the relationship if they both know it’s barely staying afloat and would be better for both of them if they just ended it then. Pretending about the relationship is becoming exhausting and it is becoming harder and harder for the trio to be “cool about it.” 

“Not Strong Enough”–“I don’t know why I am the way I am”

On March 1st, the supergroup surprise dropped “Not Strong Enough” and a music video to accompany the song. The first song beings with Bridgers in vocals and moves into the voices of Baker and Dacus. The narrator of the song is expressing their fear and constant anxieties of not being a good enough partner. They feel they have too much going on deep inside themselves that will prevent them from being good enough for their partner or what their partner deserves. They believe the amount of self-hatred they have for themselves defines them, this phenomenon is preventing them from being able to achieve their full potential. It also prevents them from expressing the true love they feel for their partner. It’s like there is a gate blocking their view. It blocks them from reaching out and expressing themselves because of this overpowering fear of just not being good enough or not being “strong enough.” The trio ends the song with the repeating lyric of “Always an angel never a god.” This repeated lyric expresses how they feel they will never live up to their partner’s expectations, and they shouldn’t get their hopes up because they are always just an angel, and never as good as a god. 

“Revolution 0”–“If this isn’t love then what the f*** is it?”

Track seven of the record is sung almost entirely by Bridgers, as she has expressed in an interview, this song is about falling in love online and is said to contain references to Bridgers’s recent relationship with Irish actor, Paul Mescal. Following the recent years of COVID, not meeting people in person and instead, meeting online is way more common. Which makes this track very relatable for people in the current era.  This post-break-up life Bridgers is experiencing is looming over her. The memories of her old relationship are still “up in my (her) head.” she believes this experience is the experience and feelings of love, and if it’s not, then what is? As most artists write about their relationships, Bridgers feels like she owes her partner a song about them in order to make their relationship real and while not lasting in the real world, still last forever in a song, as she sings, “You wanted a song, so it’s gonna be a short one”.

“Leonard Cohen”–“You said, ‘I might like you less now that you know me so well”

While short and sweet, Dacus takes full control over Leonard Cohen, letting her powerful voice speak for itself with minimal instrumentals throughout the song. I wasn’t blown away the first time I listened to Leonard Cohen, but the more I listen to it the more I’ve grown to love it. Dacus does such a good job of clearly informing the listener about where she is at in the relationship and how much she adores this individual, which is difficult to do in less than 2 minutes. Leonard Cohen perfectly encapsulates how it feels to see insecurity in someone you love, but still making the choice to love them, regardless of their self-image. Leonard Cohen is a great song to share with a friend or partner who doesn’t know how much you value your relationship with them. 

“Satanist”–“At least until you find out what a fake I am”

The lead-in of this song starts with sudden and bold instrumentals. Baker begins shortly after as the first vocalist of the song while Bridgers and Dacus pop in at different moments throughout the piece. The backstory of this song is a giant, stretched-out metaphor, essentially asking if her friends want to stay a part of her life for a long time, pleading for them to express if they care about her and if they will commit to being to her side. Such as in religious groups, followers pledge their loyalty to a higher power and are against the evil parts of the religion. The trio takes on this ideology as they ask their friend to pledge their loyalty to each other and others who may come into their life should pledge their loyalty to them as well. They emphasize their presence as addictive as the reference to different types of drugs throughout the whole song and also sing,” It’s so hard to come back,” the same for some religions, once you’re in and agree with their message it is difficult to get out and break the cycle. 

“We’re in Love”–“If you rewrite your life, may I still play a part?”

To put it simply, We’re in Love is genuinely heartbreaking. My jaw dropped multiple times because of the personal lyrics and Dacus’ delivery throughout the entire song. Her voice comes across as fragile–like it could break at any second, but she continues to sing smoothly like she’s fighting to hold back tears. The song paints a picture of pure adoration and love for someone, so much so that you’re willing to look past negative experiences and only cling to positive memories. Dacus is begging for validation throughout We’re in Love, as she’s painfully uncertain about the future. Dacus makes it known that she’s uncertain about herself and how this person feels, but that she’s so sure about her love for this individual. While it’s relatively easy to write a vulnerable song, it’s extremely difficult to clearly depict such specific and intense emotions as Dacus does. It’s even harder to write a personal song and make the conscious decision to put it out in the world. From a vocal and songwriting perspective, the song’s specificity and vulnerability make it incredibly easy to appreciate. You’ve done it again, boygenius.

“Anti-Curse”–“I never listened, I had to see for myself”

This song, sung primarily by Baker tells the true story of Baker’s near-death drowning experience. She is having the “life flashing before your eyes” moment, all of her mistakes, happy memories, and regrets come to the surface as she falls below it. She points out moment-by-moment details while there’s “salt in my (her) lungs,” and she’s “holdin my (her) breath.” Making the listener feel as she is right there with her during this moment. Instead of being sad about her death, she looks onto the moment with open arms, “even a blessing.” She has tried her best throughout her life and if this is the moment she dies in she will be happy to leave behind the legacy she has created for herself. She realizes her experiences and friends she has made over time do have an impact, they mean something to others and they mean something to herself. However, even after she comes to terms with the fact she could die, she ends up coming back to shore and is now ready to live life even fuller than before. She’s excited for the new moments in life to come forward and the new events she will experience. 

“Letter to an Old Poet”–“I want to be happy/I’m ready/to walk into my room without looking for you./I’ll go up the top of our building/and remember my dog when I see the full moon”

For those who consistently appreciate the slower tempo of boygenius songs and for those who appreciated their EP, Letter to an Old Poet was the perfect way to close out the record. Bridgers’ storytelling through a conversational tone worked incredibly well and had listeners hanging on to every last word. Letter to an Old Poet depicted Bridgers’ reflection on previous feelings and a past relationship with someone who wasn’t beneficial to her in any shape or form. Similarly to Emily I’m Sorry, the song constantly circles back to feelings of regret; but throughout Letter to an Old Poet, Bridgers is much more detailed about what she entailed throughout this relationship and why she is so remorseful. Bridgers acknowledges that she is finally ready to move on and experience happiness again through reference to boygenius’ well-loved song, Me & My Dog. It’s difficult not to get emotional when Bridgers talks about remembering her dog instead of being with her dog, adding to the personalization of Letter to an Old Poet. This final song makes it clear to listeners that Bridgers is incredibly ready to move on and that she’s no longer comfortable sitting in the sadness that she’s so desperate to escape. 

While there were many somber topics covered throughout the record, the album brought joy to loyal boygenius fans. The album not only proved to be therapeutic for Baker, Dacus, and Bridgers but also resonated with loyal fans and even led to boygenius adding more people to their fanbase. With the record hitting number 1 in the U.K., it is obvious that the work that Baker, Dacus, and Bridgers put in individually, paid off.