Home Music Revisit: Brockhampton: Saturation

Revisit: Brockhampton: Saturation

Before the record label deals, and before the drama, there was Brockhampton’s Saturation trilogy. Within the second half of 2017, the boy band put out three fully-fledged albums, each containing their own unique bangers while still remaining distinctly related to each other. Arguably the most iconic album of the bunch, Saturation 1 served as an introduction to the group for most fans, considering how underwhelming and overlooked their debut mixtape, All-American Trash, was. With this in mind, it feels safe to say that if Saturation hadn’t emitted such personality and likability, Brockhampton wouldn’t be where they are today.

For evidence of this, you don’t need to look much further than the singles leading up to release. From “STAR” to “FACE,” there is chemistry between every single artist on any respective track. Take the first song on the album, “HEAT,” for example. It opens with ominous and distant vocals looping over themselves, immediately followed by hard-as-hell drums and a growling synth. Ameer Vann busts the door down with ferocious charisma, kicking his verse off with “I got pipe dreams of crack rocks and stripper poles/ Of fucking centerfolds.” From here, every featured artist stakes their claim on the track, demanding you learn and remember their names.

While Kevin Abstract would eventually become the unofficial “frontman” of Brockhampton, the original Saturation does not reinforce any such hierarchy. The contributions made by each member are essential in making the album what it is. Again, without the eccentricity of something on the level of a Merlyn Wood performance, these songs wouldn’t grip the listener quite so easily. Even with the heavy implementation of pitch-shifting and Auto-Tune, their quirks and cadences shine through.

Beyond the summer jams, Brockhampton expresses earnest emotional depth, often digging deep down to provide intimate R&B cuts like “FACE.” While the upbeat tracks will most likely get listeners hooked on the group, it is the slower-paced nature of songs like “SWIM” with its soft guitars and gentle synth mixed with vulnerable songwriting that connect you to the bandmates, and you realize that they are more than the quotable one-liners that put them on the map. Moments like this are the reason Joba is able to rise above being known as the guy that screams “Fuck you/ I’ll break your neck so you can watch your back.” And the best thing is there is nothing wrong with that line. In fact, it’s one of the more memorable moments on the entire album, but would have come off as one-dimensional and gimmicky if not for the contrast provided by the slower songs.

Listening to Saturation in 2021 isn’t that much different from 2017. The production is still just as fresh as the day it came out, and will likely age exceptionally well compared to the rap released around the same time. There are the occasional awkward moments involving Ameer spitting a line about how “there’s a couple women and they know some thingsconsidering what went down with him following the end of the trilogy. Another questionable aspect is the choice to only include Bearface on the final song, “WASTE.” While he has taken on a much more prominent role in the group nowadays, he feels out of place closing out an album whose success is so reliant on the sense of comradery flowing throughout. It doesn’t ruin the experience by any means, but there is a sense that his soulful performances would have worked on a number of the slower tracks.

Variety made Saturation click. Brockhampton threw everything against the wall, and it all stuck. From the production style to the members to the presentation, they could do it all with the virtuosity of people who have spent years working on their craft with double the budget. They displayed disregard for convention in a manner akin to someone cobbling together a mixtape, but did so with the vision of something greater, leading to their meteoric rise to fame.

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