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How Beabadoobee’s confessional bedroom pop captured the anxieties of a generation

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Meena Alexander
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Beabadoobee portrait

Every week Stylist is shining a light on a female artist you need to be listening to. This week we meet the emerging voice of Gen Z, Beabadoobee.

Bea Kristi could be plucked from an entirely different era. Everything from her love of baggy dungarees and Buffalos to her laidback drawl – every sentence peppered with a “super cool” or a “dude” – suggests she grew up amid the basement grunge scene of early 90s New York. But the singer now known as Beabadoobee was only born 19 years ago, and she’s only been making music for two of them.

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Born in the Philippines and raised in Camden, north London, she went through several fan girl phases – One Direction included – until she settled on the sound that spoke to her the most. “I’m into soft pop from the 90s, it really resonates with me,” she tells Stylist from the green room of The Bodega in Nottingham, minutes before she’s due to go on stage. “I grew up with The Cranberries, The Cardigans, Sonic Youth. I want to be like them.” 

Although she played the violin for seven years (“I was a classic Asian kid like that”), it wasn’t until she was 17 that she picked up the guitar her dad  brought home from a secondhand shop. “I basically sat there and wrote my first song straight way – it was only two chords.”

That first track was Coffee, a beautifully simple love song that’s now been played in Gen Z bedrooms around the world. At the end of a year that saw her complete her A levels, put out three EPs and pick up a nomination for the Brit Rising Star award, Beabadoobee took a moment with Stylist to reflect on her most formative firsts.

The first album I bought…
Was Dookie by Green Day. I was 14 and in my pop punk phase, which was pretty jokes. But that album is still important in my life today, so I’m proud that was the first physical record I ever got. It felt legit.

The first gig I went to…
Was One Direction at Wembley stadium when I was 13. I was so close to the stage because I was obsessed with Zayn, I was a proper fan girl. 

Beabadoobee portrait
Beabadoobee wrote her first song on a secondhand guitar at the age of 17.

The first time I knew music was my future…
Was when people really started fucking with my music. I kind of did it for myself, but when people started noticing and saying it was helping them with their mental health, that motivated me to write more songs. I guess music was always a passion of mine, but I still want to be a nursery teacher. That’s still a really big goal for me.

The first time I realised I was good at my job…
That’s one thing I struggle with – I do admit that I’m pretty self-deprecating when it comes to my writing and performing. I don’t think it’ll ever hit me like, ‘I’m frickin’ talented’. I’m still growing as a person and it’ll come when it comes.

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The first time I performed…
Was when I was 18, supporting my friend’s band Rose Dive in Guilford. I did about five shows by myself, then got a band together and we toured in America with Clairo – it was pretty scary, I’d just finished my exams. I used to have really bad anxiety going on stage but that tour chilled me out a ton.

The first thing I do in the morning…
Is have a really good stretch. I get really cuddly in the morning so I just want a cuddle – I’m so nice when I’ve just woken up.

The first thing I do when I get home…
Is take my bra off. Take. That. Shit. Off. Then change into really comfy clothes, find a snack and munch it.

The first thing I heard this morning…
Was my drummer Louis’ fart – I stayed in his room with my videographer Tommy because we’re on tour and we’re all best friends.

The first thing I’ll spend money on…
If I have a shit-ton of money I’ll get a tattoo. I have loads, but right now my Charlie Brown one is my favourite. That cartoon was the first thing to ever introduce me to the idea of mental health and the notion that people get sad and it’s OK to be sad. I guess that’s really important in my life because I’ve struggled with mental health issues – my head gets loud sometimes – so it’s on my wrist to remind me that things will get better.

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The first person who inspired me…
Was the musician Kimya Dawson. I remember watching the film Juno for the first time and the soundtrack really stood out, I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing’. She makes stripped back, acoustic songs on her own and then in her band the Moldy Peaches its more basement grunge rock. I am super inspired by her because I want to do the exact same thing. And funnily enough I found out recently that she also writes children’s books and songs too! 

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The first artist you should go and listen to after reading this…
Is a late-90s band called Duster. There’s a great song called Cooking – one time I got really stoned on weed brownies and that song was playing in my mind, and every time I tapped my head it would go up in volume. It was sick.

Beabadoobee’s latest EP Space Cadet is out now. She plays The Dome in London on 20 December and is touring nationwide with The 1975 from 15 February.

Images: Jordan Curtis Hughes

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Meena Alexander

Meena Alexander is Stylist’s sub-editor. She prides herself on her ability to spell big words, her vinyl collection and her photographic memory for every outfit Rihanna has ever worn.

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