boygenius broke their four-year hiatus with the release of three singles Jan. 18, kicking off the 2023 music scene with a bang. The three new songs demonstrate how the trio’s dynamic allows them to produce masterpieces.
The band — composed of indie rock singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers — was rumored to be reuniting a week prior, when Coachella announced they would be performing at the festival later this spring. The group will also be touring the U.S. as a headliner for the Re:SET Concert Series, which released tickets to the public on Friday.
Before their group debut in late 2018, each of the three members had already kickstarted their solo careers: Baker’s discography included two studio albums titled “Sprained Ankle” and “Turn Out the Lights,” Bridgers garnered attention for hits like “Motion Sickness” from her 2017 album “Stranger in the Alps,” and Dacus’s 2018 album “Historian” delivered her most popular song, “Night Shift.”
Each of the three newly released singles are spearheaded by a different member of the band. As one artist’s vocals and respective production style lead the tune, the other two voices chime in behind her.
The first single, “$20,” explosively announces that boygenius is back and ready to build on the same heavy emotions that characterized their first self-titled EP. The song appears to be a parallel to their 2018 song “Souvenir,” which Baker opened by describing a $20 dreamcatcher she bought to prevent her nightmares. But it seems the dreamcatcher didn’t serve its purpose: “$20” ends with a loop of Baker, Bridgers and Dacus begging for the money back.
Both “Souvenir” and “$20” present a theme of self-destruction, but the latter’s sound draws a contrast to “Souvenir’s” slow, somber melody. Baker opens the song with an urgent guitar riff and the confession “It’s a bad idea/ And I’m all about it.” Bridgers joins her in the background of the first verse and Dacus chimes in during the second. The chorus becomes an amalgamation of their voices as they begin belting disparate lyrics over each other, contributing to the song’s chaos. It ends with Bridgers screaming in the background, a move similar to one she makes in her song, “I Know the End.”
The mood mellows with the next single, “Emily I’m Sorry.” Bridgers’ soft voice delivers this apology, presumably to vocal artist Emily Bannon. Bannon and Bridgers were close throughout Bannon’s relationship with producer Chris Nelson, which ended in 2019. In 2020, the two accused Nelson of abuse and fraud, which prompted him to instigate a defamation suit against Bridgers. Bridgers ultimately won the dismissal of the case.
“Emily I’m Sorry” is a plea for a second chance and a reflection on the costs of not knowing what you want until it is too late. Bridgers laments “I am twenty seven/ And I don’t know who I am.” The production style — reminiscent of the tracks on Bridgers’s “Punisher” — coupled with self-deprecating lyrics, plants a deep feeling of desperation in listeners. Dacus and Baker amplify this sentiment with their wispy harmonies, and the song concludes with Bridgers repeating her apology over and over.
The final single, “True Blue,” leaves listeners on a more hopeful note with lyrics reflecting Dacus’s narrative songwriting approach. She seems to be completing the story first told in “Emily I’m Sorry.” With lines like “When you don’t know who you are/ You f— around and find out,” Dacus signals that the apologizer has finally gone through the process of self-discovery and made it to the other side. Both sonically and lyrically, the song captures the special comfort of being known so well that there is no need to hide. “True Blue” also offers a hint of happiness and healing that are often absent in the group’s music, which leaves listeners curious about the mood of their future music.
The band's ability to create powerful and touching music can be largely attributed to the fact that each member preserves their individuality within the band. Each artist’s unique talents are beautifully married together to forge soul-crushing ballads, which are sure to hook listeners with their melancholic style and gritty lyrics. boygenius’s cohesiveness as a creative body amplifies their talent tenfold.
Much to their fans’ chagrin, boygenius went quiet following their first EP’s release. Still, the three flourished individually to become household names in the indie-alternative genre. Bridgers’s second studio album, “Punisher,” earned her four Grammy nominations, and her haunting vocals have been featured on several songs with other artists, including Taylor Swift, SZA and Kid Cudi. In 2021, Baker released “Little Oblivions,” a fragile and forlorn album reflecting on her addiction, faith and sexuality. The year also brought more of Dacus’s impeccable anecdotal songwriting with the release of her album “Home Video.” But the three never strayed far from each other; in each of their records, the other two frequently join in with ghostly harmonies in the background.
“$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry” and “True Blue” form an emotional triple punch that represents a welcomed return of the group and sets high expectations that boygenius will undoubtedly meet with their upcoming debut album, “the record,” slated for release Mar. 31.
Daphne is an Arts & Culture writer from Austin, Texas. She is planning on studying International and Public Affairs. Her passions include cats, running and Phoebe Bridgers.