Supergroups usually end up disappointing, too many chefs in the kitchen, less than the sum of their parts (no matter how impressive those parts may be). Highly anticipated releases, the ones you thought you’d never get, also have a way of letting one down, as nothing can live up to what you’ve imagined in your head. Both of those pitfalls faced sad girl pop supergroup boygenius, a.k.a. Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, who had previously only released a self-titled EP way back in 2018, before they were all hit artists, before ‘sad girl pop’ was a term (over-)used by music writers. Yet the record manages to match your high hopes.
However you expected boygenius’ first full-length to start out, you would not have guessed an a-cappella sing-along like a seventies family group in “Without You Without Them”. Then the album goes into the three pieces that they wrote solo and brought to the project (QRO singles review), Baker’s emotional rocker “$20”, Bridgers’ heartbreak leaning into harmony “Emily I’m Sorry”, and Dacus’ sad country storytelling “True Blue”. The three tracks favor what each woman does best, showcasing the group’s range.
But right when you think it’s just going to be each artist doing their own thing, the record not only combines their skills, but enhances them. “Not Strong Enough” (QRO review) is a killer combo for sad girl pop perfection (it’s what you should play to your parent who thinks the kids these days don’t know ‘real’ music). The confessions of love, damn the consequences in “Revolution 0” and “We’re In Love” are like the denouement of a teen romance, only you don’t know if the other person is going to reciprocate. The three artists are relaxed about their messed up lives in “Satanist”, a great bit of wryness that often gets overlooked in each’s sadness, and wistfully look back at their youth in the rocking “Anti-Curse”. And, of course the record ends with a crushing kiss-off to the toxic ex that you’re still in love with, on “Letter To an Old Poet”.
Admittedly, the record can’t be as much of a revelation as each singer’s most recent hit albums, just because by know you know them, you love them, you’ve cried to them. But it is the boygenius you’ve had longed for.