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Singer/songwriter beabadoobee expands her sound dramatically on 'Beatopia'

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Bea Kristi Laus uses the stage name beabadoobee. Born in the Philippines and raised in London, she's a 22-year-old singer and songwriter who first attracted attention in 2017 making solo songs she began posting to YouTube. Now she's just released her second album called "Beatopia." Rock critic Ken Tucker says she's expanded her sound dramatically with a wide variety of intriguing new songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TALK")

BEABADOOBEE: (Singing) Call you up on a Tuesday, say what's up? Babe, it's too late. Why'd you have to be so complicated? complicated.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: I first heard beabadoobee's new song "Talk" on the radio. I confess I didn't recognize whose voice it was, but that was partly because it sounded like so many people. The vocal on this rumbling ballad sounded to me as though it could be as old as a girl group single from the 1960s by The Marvelettes or the Shirelles. Or it could have come from some kid being cleverly moody in a TikTok video she posted just last night. It's this mixture of timelessness and immediacy that makes beabadoobee's music distinctive, I think.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "10:36")

BEABADOOBEE: (Singing) You don't need me as much as I need you as much as I need you. Take it or leave it 'cause you know that's the truth, 'cause you know that's the truth. I know you thought it was just us. I didn't think you'd fall in love. You're just a warm body to hold at night when I'm feelin' all alone.

TUCKER: That's "10:36," in which she brushes off a guy who's fallen in love with her. In interviews, beabadoobee goes out of her way to minimize her musical experience, saying she didn't really think much about making music until a few years ago, and that she took up the guitar only when her father gave her one when she was 17. This is a teeny bit disingenuous. She took violin lessons for seven years as a kid. But I get what she's doing. She's trying to make what she does sound unplanned, spontaneous. And she has a great knack for this, as can be heard on the lovely, casually intimate song called "Sunny Day."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNNY DAY")

BEABADOOBEE: (Singing) No, it's been raining, I swear. I'm not lonely. Always complaining that you never see me. Call in the morning when you wake. Maybe tomorrow, we're OK when it's a sunny day. I'll keep you posted. I promise I'm better at this. Some will leave my house. I'm sorry for yesterday. You know I don't mean it. I promise I'm better at this. Some will leave my house, I'm sorry for yesterday. Keep me here with your skin on my hand.

TUCKER: Beabadoobee's name comes from a pseudonym she used on Instagram. And yes, even she thinks it's cutesy but that she's now stuck with it. She's in her early 20s, and she's talked a lot about influences that range from Alanis Morissette to Simon & Garfunkel. Many of the songs on this album, "Beatopia," have sturdy rock structures. But listen to this one called "Lovesong," and you'll know why she's also been booked to play at this year's Newport Folk Festival.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVESONG")

BEABADOOBEE: (Singing) I didn't think I'd ever want this yet when we had first met in the fall. Guess it's something you learn to accept. When I've been a mess, it's not your fault. But I keep forgetting it's what we do. I missed the train again. I called your name as if you'd drive it back. I swear you're in my head throughout the day. I can say that for a fact. Now, we had better days. But to keep me sane, I guess that this is just another love song about you, just another love song about you.

TUCKER: Late in this album, she has a song whose refrain is, I've realized you just don't get the deal - not that she's letting herself off the hook. The woman born Beatrice Kristi Laus is using her beabadoobee persona and all of these new songs to acknowledge how much she doesn't yet understand about love and how thrilled she is to be figuring it out.

DAVIES: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviewed beabadoobee's new album, "Beatopia."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE HERE THAT'S THE THING")

BEABADOOBEE: (Singing) Catch the rain even on a sunny day. I swear I'm not excusing. I'll cross my heart to prove it. For she seems tired 'cause we've been through this. And I know you said that we're not a thing. But you're here, that's the thing. And I'm not trying to give you a ring. Well, maybe on the phone if you let it sing. You're overcomplicating everything. When the lights go down, don't say I didn't warn you. I don't think that's legal in the state of California. I got you wrapped around my finger like a piece of ribbon. You just want a minute. Got you smiling.

DAVIES: Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, we'll talk about how part of the American right became aligned with Hungary and its authoritarian leader, Viktor Orban. Tucker Carlson even hosted his Fox News show from Hungary. Our guest will be Andrew Marantz, whose latest article in The New Yorker is titled "Does Hungary Offer A Glimpse Of Our Authoritarian Future?" I hope you can join us.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIAN LAGE'S "PERSIAN RUG")

DAVIES: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham with additional engineering support from Al Banks. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley, Susan Nyakundi and Joel Wolfram. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIAN LAGE'S "PERSIAN RUG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.