by: Peter Keough ’20 A&E Staff
BROCKHAMPTON, the amorphous 13-member Los Angeles via San Marcos, Texas hip-hop collective, openly brands itself as “The World’s Greatest Boyband.” After releasing three interconnected and consistently improving albums within the span of 2017, the group gained rapid fame and attention. This Saturation trilogy of albums—titled Saturation, Saturation II, and Saturation III—shot the self-contained “boyband” into the spotlight, garnering a massive fan base and media coverage.
The success of their self-produced trilogy of albums earned them the chance to sign with RCA Records in March of 2018. It was also around this time that the group announced they were working on their fourth studio album, titled Puppy, which was slated for release during the summer of 2018.
However, the band’s momentum halted abruptly in May of 2017, when they separated themselves from central member Ameer Vann due to sexual misconduct accusations. This decision had a visible impact on BROCKHAMPTON and their fans, as Vann was such an important part of their rise.
Following this development, many wondered what the band would do next. They teased a new album entitled The Best Years of Our Lives during their debut television appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on June 20, where they performed a new single entitled “Tonya.” They then released a trio of one-off singles over the duration of the rest of the summer, entitled “1999 Wildfire,” “1998 Truman,” and “1997 Diana.” It was not until Aug. 26 that they officially announced their upcoming album, iridescence, would be released on Sept. 21.
With the release of iridescence, fans have been able to get a substantial first look into post-Ameer and post-fame BROCKHAMPTON. Charles Holmes of Rolling Stone writes, “Their fourth album…is their ‘fame album,’ the one that directly addresses their meteoric rise.” The album is not only an evolution for the band, but also a glimpse at their maturation since acquiring fame.
Recorded at the historic Abbey Road Studio in London over a 10 day period, iridescence finds the boyband more experimental and more vulnerable than they have ever been before. Although their production and lyrical style has always been somewhat unorthodox, their uniqueness is extremely evident in this newest venture. The sound fluctuates from abrasive to smooth, loud and in-your-face to subdued and personal.
Not one member hogs the spotlight either. The musicians and producers utilize their full range of abilities: singing, rapping, and refusing to be constrained to one sound or flow. This variation is done masterfully, making the 48-minute runtime of iridescence seem fluid and connected.
What is most impressive about this project, though, is the tenacity with which the group attacks it. Being in the position they were in, it would not have been surprising if it took the band more time to regroup and decide how to move forward. But this was not the case.
Sputnikmusic.com reports, “BROCKHAMPTON are evolving: they’re not hand-holding the audience to the happy and sad parts of their albums anymore.” This is where iridescence shines. It is not an album that seeks to validate the band by sticking to the strengths of their earlier works, nor is it an attempt to overtly ignore the trials they have faced. The album ventures off into unimagined territory, and in doing so illuminates that BROCKHAMPTON is not done by any stretch.
On multiple songs throughout the album, a voice is heard prominently declaring “Take it all or leave it.” On iridescence, BROCKHAMPTON does the former rather than the latter. They take all they have been confronted with and churn out 15 songs that show that they are, in truth, just getting started.