c/o Pitchfork

c/o Pitchfork

boygenius, the supergroup composed of singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, has returned to the music world with three new songs that highlight the trio’s powerful lyrical and vocal abilities. The group released three singles, “$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry,” and “True Blue,” from their debut studio album, “the record,” which is set to come out on Friday, March 31.

The band formed in 2018 after the three performers became friends and shared their frustrations about how women fared in the music industry. Their name references the stereotype of a brilliant male artist, or “boy genius,” after the trio all had negative experiences collaborating with male musicians. The group’s self-titled debut EP, released that year, featured six tracks that balance each of the three artists’ strengths, bringing their unique styles of music together to fill songs like “Ketchum, ID” and “Salt In The Wound” with a strong emotional depth. With songs like “Me & My Dog,” you can easily pick out the voice of each group member in the harmonies and hear how well they complement one another.

While the three artists are all incredible musicians on their own, boygenius songs carry power, with the way they let the three members of the band share the limelight while also highlighting each one. This energy carries through in the group’s three newly released songs, which offer an exciting taste of what is to come on their debut album. 

Each of the three singles corresponds to one of the members’ particular musical styles, with “$20” led by Baker, “Emily I’m Sorry” by Bridgers, and “True Blue” by Dacus. The songs chosen to represent their album speaks to how boygenius songs are a seamless mix of the three artists in a push-and-pull balance that works so well. 

The first single, “$20,” kicks off with a steady drum beat and guitars that back up Baker’s vocals as Bridgers and Dacus join in at the end of each sentence. The three-way harmonies, scattered throughout the song, and the powerful balance of their voices highlight what is greatest about boygenius as a group. The song has only three verses, each building to a dramatic chorus where Baker kicks off the vocals, with Dacus and Bridgers adding on with overlapping lyrics one by one. “Gas, out of time, out of money / You’re doing what you can, just makin’ it run,” Baker sings, as Dacus brings in a lower-pitched “There’s only so much I can / Take a break, make your escape,” and above both of them, Bridgers loudly asks, “May I please have twenty dollars?” The song ends with Bridgers screaming in an intense conclusion to the first of the three singles.

“Emily I’m Sorry,” led by Bridgers, is immediately recognizable as a quintessential Phoebe Bridgers song. The opening guitar chords are reminiscent of Bridger’s solo song “Scott Street” as her soft singing voice begins “Emily I’m Sorry.” Dacus and Baker join in during the chorus, which is turned into a moving refrain as the three voices strengthen each other: “Emily I’m sorry I just / Make it up as I go along / Yet, I can feel myself becoming / Someone only you could want,” the group sings. The song comes to a close with Bridgers singing her apology alone in a quiet ending that speaks to her typical style.

The final single, “True Blue,” opens with catchy strokes of a guitar as Dacus begins to sing the memorable opening lines. This is her song to lead, with themes and sounds that strike the same vein as her album Home Video. Dacus’s voice is perfect for the storytelling nature of “True Blue,” with harmonies from Baker and Bridgers as the song builds to the chorus. The group joins together to sing, “And it feels good to be known so well / I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself / I remember who I am when I’m with you / Your love is tough, your love is tried and true-blue.” This is the only one of the three new singles to feature a bridge, which follows an instrumental break for all three of the singers, building energy until the emotive lyrics that act as the peak of the song: “You’ve never done me wrong, except for that one time / That we don’t talk about / Because it doesn’t matter anymore.” 

Together and individually, the three singles are a stirring and strong showing from boygenius that build anticipation for the full album release. It’s impossible to pick a favorite among these three songs because there are things about each of them to love, ultimately speaking to what makes the group’s music so emotionally commanding. When the rest of the album drops, the group’s newest songs are sure to be as aurally captivating as the first three.

Jem Shin can be reached at jshin01@wesleyan.edu.