Album Review: BROCKHAMPTON makes boy bands cool again on “iridescence”
Sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of a projection of softly breaking waves, the self-proclaimed “hardest working boyband in show business,” BROCKHAMPTON, made their first late night television appearance on June 20, performing the song “TONYA.”
Less than one month prior, the group lost one of its founding members, Ameer Van, due to sexual misconduct charges. The emotional performance was a catharsis for all of the challenges the group faced in the past year and their will to regroup and collectively move forward.
BROCKHAMPTON’s fifth studio album, “iridescence,” marks a new chapter for the hip-hop collective hailing from San Marcos, TX. Being the first album released by the band under a major label and without a former key member, all eyes were on them to reorganize and deliver. The nine-month wait, which seemed like an eternity after the band’s breakneck pace of three albums in six months the year before, left fans skeptical that lightning could strike twice.
“Is you gon’ finish what you started? What you quitting for?” Dom McLennon raps defiantly in one of the opening lines of the first track “NEW ORLEANS.” It is immediately apparent that BROCKHAMPTON picked themselves up and returned in full force. Throughout the album, their signature aggressive energy is showcased along with their sensitive and vulnerable lyrics.
The group’s concern with sexuality and mental illness still plays a central role in their lyrics. BROCKHAMPTON paints an honest portrait of the current state of their lives and careers on “iridescence.” Lack of confidence, drug abuse, dissatisfaction with materialism, frustration with the media and the pressures of fame are all confessed struggles by the various members.
In the outro of “SAN MARCOS,” a chorus sings, “I want more out of life than this / I want more, I want more.” This sentiment encapsulates the group’s self-awareness and the realization of how much their lives have changed in a short period.
All of these changes are reflected by the sheer number of sonic risks “iridescence” takes, signaling a renewed sense of creative energy and confidence. The group adopts a more abrasive, experimental hip-hop sound with bone-rattling bass, sustained electronic notes and multiple vocal layers on many of the tracks.
The album’s standout track, “J’Ouvert” is marked by some of the most aggressive and in-your-face deliveries of any of BROCKHAMPTON’s material. Member Joba especially shines with a searing verse channeling Eminem’s early deliveries.
While there are many high-octane moments, the latter half of the album consists of ballads with soaring, harmonized vocals and luscious guitar and piano work. The album version of “TONYA,” especially, proves that the group is deserving of the moniker “boyband” with its pop sensibility and emotion.
“iridescence” marks the first album in another trilogy called “The Best Years of Our Lives” to be released in the coming months. BROCKHAMPTON is clearly living out this title and bringing us all along for the ride. Even greater things are coming for the self-described, “best boy band since One Direction.”