Brockhampton Mellows on the Often-Stunning “GINGER”

Elise Soutar, Contributing Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

(Courtesy of Flickr)

Last year was tough for the Brockhampton boys, to say the least. The most jarring shift occurred in the middle of the year, when abuse allegations against member Ameer Vann led to his removal from the group. The Los Angeles based, self-proclaimed “boy band” regrouped in September to release its fourth album, “iridescence,” which critics met with mixed-to-positive reviews — a major change in reception from the near-unanimous praise they received for 2017’s trilogy of “SATURATION” albums.

In 2019, following the release of band leader Kevin Abstract’s most recent solo project, the group befriended Shia Labeouf and began organizing weekly vent sessions which they named “Friday Therapy.” Various band members have told the press that those meetings inspired the concept for their newest project, “GINGER.”

Make no mistake: on “GINGER,” the 16-member group is still lost. But where “iridescence” was erratic, “GINGER” is mournful. The expression of pain is muted, but it cuts just as deep from a listener’s perspective.

The first three singles released ahead of the album, “I BEEN BORN AGAIN,” “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT” and “BOY BYE,” give an impression of what the project could sound like. Each one is an energetic, rap-heavy track, which is the type of song the band is known to excel at.

While none of these songs sacrifice the sonic and lyrical playfulness which mark so many other Brockhampton songs, there is a darker undertone present in each of them. “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT” features horns that sound lifted straight from a funeral march, while the instrumental on “BOY BYE” sounds like the incidental music a cartoon villain would sneak around to.

All of them feature synths which seem like they were created to make you feel uneasy. Even when the tracks are meant to sound lighthearted there is an underlying sense of doom, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

However, if you thought the singles were indicative of the entire album’s sound, you would be wrong. The rest of the album leans more heavily on mellow R&B, especially on songs like the strong fourth single “NO HALO,” where the melancholic acoustic guitar, emotional verses and breathy vocal feature from guest singer Deb Never create an atmosphere which compliments the other singles, but paints a more accurate picture of what is to come.

“SUGAR” and “GINGER” show Brockhampton lovingly wearing their early-2000s R&B influence on their sleeves, as the band delivers moody and impassioned vocals that would make Justin Timberlake proud.

“Patch me up and stitch it/make me better,” singer and group engineer Joba begs on “BIG BOY.” This song, along with “DEARLY DEPARTED” and “VICTOR ROBERTS,” makes up the album’s true emotional core. The former addresses the Vann controversy, as well as personal losses which occurred within the band around the same time. Rapper Dom McLennon’s searing verse has him playing the preacher in the metaphorical funeral service which the album seems to center around, and with that anger and passion, he creates one of the album’s most moving moments.

“VICTOR ROBERTS” centers around a verse written and performed by McLennon’s longtime friend whom the song is named after, detailing his difficult upbringing. Though Victor’s struggle is different from the struggles the album is based on, the parallel drawn between the emotions that come with hardship of any kind is clear. “Thank God/when I talk, I know you listen to me/thank God that I’m built for the distance/thank God for me,” is the last line of the song and album, and while it references religion — a concept which lingers in almost every song — the end message is a need for interpersonal emotional support. It is all the members of Brockhampton talking to each other and their fans. It sounds like how the album cover looks.

“GINGER” has extreme high points, but the reason these songs should be split up into different categories is because it sounds like they should be broken up.

The slower and faster songs have different edges which do not fully fit in the jigsaw puzzle of the album.
Though I like each of the individual pieces, and the songs flow together production-wise, the overall picture is a bit unfocused, as if it cannot seem to decide its exact direction.

I guess that makes sense, given that the album serves as an expression of grief, and grieving is hardly ever linear or concise. This does not make for uninteresting art.

Rather, it just makes for a lack of cohesion. If that does not bother you, it is an album worth checking out.

A lot of people are quick to write off Brockhampton as hype that has fizzled out. However, the highlights here definitively prove that those people are not listening closely enough.