iridescence is the highly anticipated fourth studio album from all-American boyband BROCKHAMPTON. The album features an overwhelming sound that spontaneously shifts from high-frequency, rampant beats to smooth, acoustic melodies, reflecting the members’ new chaotic lifestyles. Although iridescence lacks substantial, catchy hits in favor of enigmatic song structures, if given the time to properly digest the records intricacies, one can see a stellar exploration of a generation coming to terms with the chaos world of fame and excess.
BROCKHAMPTON blew up after making and releasing three albums, the Saturation Trilogy (SATURATION, SATURATION II, SATURATION III) within 2017. This led the band to sign a big deal with RCA Records as they sold out show after show across the world. Their rise to stardom would be interrupted after allegations of physical and emotional abuse were made towards cover boy Ameer Vann, leading to his removal. And now comes iridescence, which was recorded in 10 days at Abby Road in London. And this once again rushed production allows the album to maintain the do-it-yourself atmosphere while adding to the chaotic structure.
When first lying down to bump the new record from the “best boyband since One Direction,” I had butterflies in my stomach. Now we see if this exciting, young group of 14 rappers, producers, and artist is not just a fluke—are they here to stay? The weight of anticipation was amplified by my long (while not really long) history with BROCKHAMPTON as well.
I remember first hearing a BROCKHAMPTON song around July of 2017. I was attending a concert in Nashville, and when driving around the city, my friend showed me SATURATION. At the time, I had only begun listening to hip hop, so I didn’t immediately bond. But the more I listened, the more I connected with the music. They became the first hip hop artist I ever fell in love with. I saw them when they came to Austin in 2017, and they’re terrific live show didn’t disappoint.
But BROCKHAMPTON and I have gone through a lot of difficult growing this past year. And sometimes when people separate and grow, they come back barely recognizing one other.
So, with mixed emotions I pressed play.
iridescence upon first listen is a dense, overwhelming, beautiful mess of an album. Starting with “NEW ORLEANS,” it boasts a relentless high-frequency on top of a grimy beat. The track is grungy and metallic, and the Jaden Smith feature adds some of the young rapper’s best work to the mix. But when I say this album is confusing, the transition to the following ballad “THUG LIFE” is seamless despite the intense juxtaposition similar to that of “SISTER/NATION.” Transitions like these make one forget what song they are in. These two tracks work in ying-and-yang effect, characterizing iridescence as a polarizing roller-coaster ride compared to the more simply structured Saturation Trilogy.
The roller-coaster continues into the heart of the album: “WEIGHT.” Kevin Abstract opens with one of his best verses discussing his homosexuality in light of his past and present. Jumping into a punching beat, the track adjusts itself to each member accordingly and inventively. One of the most obvious improvements on this release is the independence from the standard “BROCKHAMPTON” flow typical of the Saturation Era.
The band hits a stride here going into “DISTRICT,” another hostile and all-over-the-place bop that characterizes city streets and the violent environment of the US. Joba lets loose in this song with a ferocious delivery. On the later song “J’OUVERT,” Joba comes in talking and builds over another relentless standing frequency to screaming at the world for judging him for failing in a position they are not in. To me, Joba is the stand out member on iridescence. He showcases a wide range of styles each with individual and unique personalities in a group overflowing with unique personalities.
“TAPE” is the most typical BROCKHAMPTON sounding song on the record, providing a much-needed breather along with the interlude “LOOPHOLE.”
The second half boasts a stronger collection of songs epitomized with the hectic flows of “HONEY” where the band gets meta by sampling one of their old tracks: “BUMP.” This kind of variety details how they experiment with their sound as they reflect on a crazy rise.
The album wind ups with the phenomenal double header in “SAN MARCOS” and “TONYA.” For me, this is emotional peak of the record. These songs mask insecurities, regrets, depression, and suicidal thoughts behind soothing melodies sung by Bearface. Hearing them for the first time reminded me about who I was when BROCKHAMPTON were only a couple months from being in San Marcos, Texas. I cried.
I see many fans and new listeners not enjoying iridescence. The album ends with clapping and shouting contrasted with suicidal desire to make for an awkward emotional culmination. The roller coaster doesn’t conclude but stutters to a stop. BROCKHAMPTON doesn’t really offer any answers on the surface about the dark issues they discuss, leaving many listeners including me dissatisfied initially with the release.
We all “want more out of life than this,” but sadly there isn’t any more. The more you thought would be enough turned out to be nothing at all. And what was once nothing at all turned out to be everything and more. Sometimes it feels as “if I don’t matter,” but BROCKHAMPTON and my generation are growing—learning that we never mattered. But lucky for us, it’s not about being important to friends, the public, history, or anything exterior. For how can anyone truly love another human being when they can’t even love the only person they truly know: themselves.
iridescence is a mixed bag filled with more good than mediocre. It displays the group maturing their sound for better and sometimes for worse. For example, they repeat the use of an intense frequency carried by the beat two times too much. In addition, though the constant changes energize the music, there occasionally isn’t a chorus or verse to ground the audience into the track and not every change improves the song.
This album generally works for me, and due to my emotional reaction, I must recognize that the difficulty of this album resembles the difficulty of getting past one’s past. The difficulty of loving oneself without rejecting one’s past. But it is through this difficulty that we grow. BROCKHAMPTON has grown a lot over the past year. Now the question remains, have their young generation of fans grown with them?