Sunday 30 December 2018

Album Of The Year 2018: Ryan Beatty - Boy In Jeans

Hello, bet you weren't expecting to see me again. It's been a tough one this year for The Blog but in its absence The Podcast that I do has been doing amazing (sweetie) since the start of the 2018/19 Premier League season so that's all quite exciting really. As early as March I was worried about the fact I wasn't enjoying any albums, or EPs for that matter, the whole way through. Kali Uchis' Isolation released at the start of April was my first taste of an album I could even attempt to invest in. Then along came the curious case of ~all those Brockhampton albums~; and then along came the actual Brockhampton album and it was nothing but poorly produced disappointment. A quick shout out to Blood Orange's Negro Swan, Cosmo's Midnight's What Comes Next and Don Broco's Technology. As unenthused as I was by LPs this year, those three did alright.

If I had to pull together a top three I'm not sure I could choose which way round they'd sit but Boston Manor's second record Welcome To The Neighbourhood and Buddy's debut full-length Harlan & Alondra would be the two fighting it out. I've never been a fan of Boston Manor prior to now, just another pop punk band, weren't they? But they've done what Decade did between their debut and follow up, and just grown the fuck up. Welcome To The Neighbourhood was recorded (if not also written) in America and was produced by Mike Sapone (of Brand New production fame). It's polished, this album, in a way that you would never have expected a Boston Manor album to be. I was late to this Buddy album by a good three months or so but I'm so glad I gave it some time because it's an effortless blend of hip hop, R&B and funk. I'm so excited for the artist that Buddy is about to become.

But, my actual album of the year? A record that has seen me through every waking minute of the second half of 2018? That's Ryan Beatty's God In Jeans. And you're out here like "... Ryan who?". And I'm out here like Bleach Blonde Gay Icon Ryan Beatty. He actually started life as a YouTuber a whole bunch of years ago, did some music for a bit and then disappeared. The first I heard of him were his collaborations with Brockhampton last year on Saturation II and III. And then in May, Beatty released the first track from his debut album, 'Bruise'. Let's put it this way, it's sure as hell not a conventional lead single, is it? On the surface it's just quite a good RnB/pop crossover song. In fact, the whole album is this, at surface level, a great pop record but underneath it gets dark pretty quickly.

The whole record is produced by Calvin Valentine (alongside a couple of other co-producers) and it's so refreshing in 2018 to have a pop album that does see the same themes and ideas throughout an entire body of work. The album opener 'Haircut' is pure and simple (gonna be there), it's blissful, the "it starts right now" hook is effortless, it's perfect. All albums should start like this. But as I say, Boy In Jeans takes these quick dark turns mid up-tempo song, like on Euro when suddenly Beatty's all "I'm not suicidal, I'm too afraid to die. Wanna feel something other than sadness sometimes." And I feel that. It's a similar story on 'Camo' too, with the essence of the hook being "camo print depression, I keep my feelings hidden." What we need in 2019 is more albums really blatantly dealing with issues that we're all going through but in an entirely casual way.

I've definitely used Boy In Jeans as a way to live vicariously through someone who (in my eyes at least) has something as (also, in my eyes at least) complex as their sexuality figured out. Maybe this is TMI for an annual post on a blog whose readership is now limited to those whose eyes I pry open to look at it, but I'm just being honest. I have two standout favourites on Boy In Jeans. The first one is 'Cupid'. It is the polar opposite of a song that anyone who knows me would expect me to like. It's the slowest and most stripped back track on the record but it perfectly encapsulates every feeling one has when liking someone who, for whatever reason, they can't be with. The nicest thing about 'Cupid' is that it's not bitter or angry, it's hopeful yet realistic. 'Party's Over' is a continuation of this too. These songs are so pretty, they're stunning, but they're straight up about not being able to have what (or who) you want.

I think, objectively, by far the best moment on Boy In Jeans is 'Powerslide'. It's buried in the final third of the album which in terms of cohesiveness makes a lot of sense, but it is a bit of a shame. Anyway, this is The Stand Out pop song on the record and any doubt that Ryan Beatty can't be one of the greatest pop songwriters of the next ten years or so is literally decimated. It's perfect. It's an overtly gay love song with an absolutely huge chorus. If someone asked me to point them in the direction of a song that I heard this year that encapsulates summer - it would be this without question. I almost can't properly articulate how great this track is, and I feel like if I keep trying to do so I'm doing it less and less justice with every word.

At this point in the year, by far the most... I don't know, wholesome thing is seeing this album in other people's AOTY lists. Knowing that there are others who connected with this record maybe not in exactly the same way, but at least in a similar way as I did is a really cool thing. And honestly if you've reached the end of this and you still haven't heard Boy In Jeans, what are you waiting for?