One of the most surprisingly delightful things to happen in 2018 was when musicians Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus came together to release a debut EP under the name “boygenius.” According to a review by Pitchfork, “The self-titled six song EP is a blueprint for how to do a supergroup right: elevate each other’s individual talents, seamlessly blend your distinct-but-simpatico genres and sing like hell together in lung-shattering harmonies.”
Each singer has their own distinct style. Bridgers sings with warm intimacy, Baker has a tremendous wall-caving belt and Dacus’ style is clear, dark and rich. The result of their collaboration is almost magical, as the singers explore topics of self-worth, grief and heartache. The songs are open and intimate, and they pulsate with emotional vulnerability.
The opening song, “Bite the Hand,” features a lot of repetition with the very direct, Lucy Dacus-esque lyric: “I can’t love you how you want me to.” The harmonies float around surrounding and echoing the repeated verses in airy contrast to the dark, rich quality of Dacus’ deep alto.
“Me & My Dog” is a much folkier song that seems to fit more into Bridgers’ song writing aesthetic. The harmonies are much tighter and echo less in this song, and the trio’s voice types mesh well together. There is a dreamy wistfulness to the lyrics as exemplified in the titular line: “I wish I was on a spaceship, just me and my dog and an impossible view.” The other verse, “I cried at your show with the teenagers,” showcases a sort of intimately innocent vulnerability characteristic of Bridgers’ previous works.
“Stay Down,” a song that uses the metaphor of a fight as a self-aware reminder to stay grounded and be more gracious, really allows Baker’s giant vocals to shine as she belts out the heartbreaking refrain, “I’ll just stay down.” The balance here in the song really leans toward Baker, and the accompanying harmonies of Bridgers and Dacus seem much more in the background and of a darker quality that matches Baker’s huge voice.
The most collaborative song is “Salt in the Wound.” It’s an incredibly strong piece showcasing the strength and grit of three women who refuse to be messed with. The harmonies are incredibly tight, the guitar builds into a frenzy of noise and the song swells until it reaches the edges of anger towards a person taking unrelenting advantage of their willingness to please.
“boygenius” is a statement of strength and individuality. Each of these three women have their own distinct styles and voices that mesh powerfully together in a reminder that not all women with a guitar sound the same.
“When our voices — our literal voices, our figurative voices, stylistic voices — are placed next to each other, you’re able to see the contrast very starkly,” Baker said in an interview with Nylon magazine, “and it dismantles the assumption that all of us sound the same.”
“boygenius” is also a symbol of positive collaboration — of three women supporting each other’s unique styles and expressing themselves with strength and confidence in the expression of their own emotional vulnerability.