REVIEW: brockhampton's GINGER
Updated: Feb 28
america's favorite boyband leaves the bops behind on their fifth album
The boyband BROCKHAMPTON is nothing short of a phenomenon. The group, fronted by Kevin Abstract, started on a Kanye West fan forum seven years ago. The past four years have been relentlessly productive. The SATURATION trilogy dropped June-December of 2017. Since then, they’ve had their own VICE documentary, performed on TRL, toured the world, and taken up permanent residence on everyone’s playlist of summer bangers. September 2018’s iridescence saw the group mature into a slightly more contemplative, slightly more thoughtful role, trading some of the boyband’s playful aggression for introspection. The SATURATION trilogy floated in the background. The group stuck to what they knew while looking forward to the future.
GINGER is a softer, more melancholic side to BROCKHAMPTON. Even the album’s cover is different. No intense blues, no color contrasts, but a greyscale embrace between two of the boyband’s members. It seems fitting for an album that’s more atmospheric alienation than explosive energy. The album’s 44 minutes drifts through anxiety, depression, guilt, frustration – basically a twelve-track guided tour through the group’s therapy sessions. (BROCKHAMPTON just announced a small concert session called Friday Therapy for fans in Los Angeles.) Soft acoustic guitar and light piano chords back many of the tracks. NO HALO, the album’s opener, displays a BROCKHAMPTON that isn’t sure of their place in the world.
But if they're not sure of their place, they're also not sure about not knowing their place. At best, the album expands their range -- at worst, it shows a group who's lost once they abandon their banger-after-banger formula. “I don’t know where I’m going, / If I gotta take the high road, I’m rolling / I’m sure I’ll find it,” sings Deb Never, a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter. The album might not know where it’s going either. The album’s upbeat tracks, such as BOY BYE and IF YOU PRAY RIGHT, don’t sit well with the melodramatic wa-wahs of DEARLY DEPARTED. Don’t get me wrong – they’re both bops – but is this album a “classic” BROCKHAMPTON bag of bops, or is it a new direction? Maybe they would’ve been better as singles. The scattershot approach worked for the SATURATION trilogy, but if GINGER’s really meant to be a departure from the group’s sound and not just a minor deviation, then the album could’ve been more cohesive.
This isn’t to say that the album’s a disappointment. It’s exciting to see America’s favorite boyband try and push itself into a new direction. It’s exciting to hear BROCKHAMPTON slip into a new sound for an hour. The SATURATION trilogy is done, we’re about to start a brand new decade, and any group has to adapt to keep up. The album’s perfect for staring out the bus window on a rainy day. It’s great for having a drink, lying flat on the bed, and thinking about all the times you’ve screwed up. The album sounds like it has your back, or at least understands what you’re going through. But I’m not sure how this is the “feel-good” record that Kevin Abstract promised in June. Is it wrong of me to miss the SATURATION days? Just a little bit?
Samuel Gee attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.