‘The Record’ sacrifices collaboration for individual triumph


@xboygeniusx on Instagram

Sarah Bergin, Arts Editor

On their debut album, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker come together as boygenius, crooning “I want to hear your story/And be a part of it.” This heartfelt lyric on the opening track of “The Record” conveys what is yet to come: an experience of beautifully fragmented anecdotes from each individual artist.

After a long-winded five-year hiatus, the trio reunited to release a monumental comeback album. The highly anticipated piece caught fans by surprise, as it was ultimately a result of their resurfacing musical relationships. Bridgers, Dacus and Baker reinstated boygenius after exploring their successful solo careers, landing on “The Record.”

Their first project, a self-titled EP, set the bar high for their future releases. The flow of each song crashed like a wave onto the shore, subtly ebbing and flowing into each other. In a four-day span, boygenius managed to create a critically acclaimed work of art to stand the test of time.

Surpassing the breathtaking art produced in their first project seemed impossible, but they still attempted to accomplish that through copious facets. boygenius’s debut album contains all of their best characteristics, compiled of haunting lyricism, intricate musicianship and stunning vocals. 

Despite this, it is lacking the collaborative adhesive that was holding their EP together. Although there is a clear separation between the tracks, each one single-handedly overshadows the disjointed aspects of the whole. The evidence communicates boygenius’s decision to focus on their own originality while coming together to cultivate the album. There are some songs that reflect their enthusiastic partnership, though, namely “Cool About It,” “Not Strong Enough” and “Without You Without Them.”

Anguished topics backed by pleasing harmonies dispose the audience to many different tastes. boygenius satisfied multiple listeners across the alternative realm, but all for distinct reasons. “Emily I’m Sorry” is a staple for those who are fans of emotional recounts while “Leonard Cohen” is for those who appreciate storytelling in its evident form.

The four singles that were released prior to the album’s launch have held up their reputation of being the notable tracks on “The Record.” The aforementioned “Emily I’m Sorry” falls under a similar category as “$20” and “True Blue,” as all three of them are reminiscent of the given lead singer’s style. Each is indistinguishable when compared to their respective artist’s solo catalogs, which makes them perfect candidates as singles for the album. “Not Strong Enough” followed the initial triplet, attesting their underlying loyalty to boygenius’s true, synergic sound.

Each member of the group has tremendous respect and love for each other, and it is shown through their discography. Every piece of “The Record” was generated by the whole, with “Leonard Cohen” being an exception, adding HoJun Yu as a co-writer alongside a writing sample from Cohen’s previous work. “We’re In Love” has been theorized to be about Dacus’ appreciation for both Baker and Bridgers. Not every song is necessarily proclaiming love in its theme, but the co-written lyrics are intertwined in their very being.

“Letter To An Old Poet” is the strongest song on the album, showcasing each of their strengths in a melancholic euphony led by Bridgers. A callback to “Me & My Dog,” “Letter To An Old Poet” displays the magnitude of their EP. The trio exasperatedly sings, “I wanna be happy/I’m ready,” ending the album on a hopeful yet reluctant undertone; hesitant to act, waiting for something to change.

“The Record” is meant to be played live. Listeners can easily picture the chaotic and energetic vibes that radiate from “Satanist” and “$20.” “Anti-Curse” is another standout, accompanied by rhythmic instrumentals and memorable chord progressions. Coachella 2023 attendees will potentially be one of the first to see this album performed in full, with boygenius as one of the prominent acts listed on the Saturday lineup.

In its execution, “The Record” is a compilation album; it is less about boygenius as a united front and more about Bridgers, Dacus and Baker sharing their isolated experiences. If anything, it is enjoyable to see each of the members exploring various styles, but at times, this sacrifices their collaborative entity in the process.

Rating: 8.5/10