‘Not Strong Enough’ Single Review: The Return of boygenius With Their Latest Album | Arts
Comprised of solo artists Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, the indie supergroup Boygenius originally came together in 2018 to release their aptly titled debut album Boygenius. Now, after a four-year hiatus, the group is back with a second album, The Record, due out on March 31st.
Boygenius has released four singles from the album so far, the latest being “Not Strong Enough” on March 1st. Although fans consider four singles – making up a third of the album – too many to release before the album, “Not Strong Enough” arguably deserves this special status as it differs greatly in lyrics, tone and form from the previous three releases differs.
Notably, “Not Strong Enough” features intricate vocal layering, with the artists providing both solos and harmonies. The song begins with a verse sung by Bridger’s soft voice and moves into a two-part harmony with Baker for the chorus; Baker’s powerful singing is then featured in the next verse. The bridge begins with just Dacus’ quiet, deep voice that lends itself well to gradual harmony. The unique vocals of all three artists come along with heavy use of guitar in the background as he starts and ends the song, supporting the addition of more intricate instrumental pieces throughout.
However, the most important component of “Not Strong Enough” are the lyrics. Unlike the previous three releases of “the record”, the lyrics focus on internal dialogue and questions. Complex, vivid imagery allows listeners to absorb the emotion behind the lyrics, with lines like “black hole opened up in the kitchen” and “stop staring at the ceiling fan” conveying an image of deep anguish and self-loathing, coming through alone adjectives is indescribable. Repeating the line “I don’t know why I am” contributes to these feelings of longing, shame, and extreme self-esteem. The bridge consists simply of the line “always an angel, never a god” repeated twelve times conveying a sense of being lost, weak and – literally – not strong enough.
With the accompanying music video, “Not Strong Enough” also stands out from previous releases. The video, shot by the artists themselves, presents itself as a home movie of a summer road trip, during which Dacus, Baker and Bridgers visit everyday places such as amusement arcades, museums and roller coasters. The juxtaposition between these seemingly carefree happy scenes and the dark, self-seeking lyrics is profound and conveys the idea that not all struggles are visible. Despite this contrast, however, the video contains several subtle but purposeful artistic choices. For example, the three artists comically pose with antique busts in a museum, giving a visual representation of the theme of “God Complex” conveyed in the lyrics. Similarly, the video ends with them playing with colorful smoke bombs in the dark, aptly complementing the “I believe I have revelations” lyrics.
Altogether, the dynamic but contrasting vocals of Dacus, Baker and Bridgers, together with the complex lyrics and intricate music video create a breathtaking masterpiece that manages to turn the most horrific nervous breakdown into a work of art, yet without avoiding the romanticization of its struggles.
Fans can look forward to the full album release later this month, followed by their Coachella performance in April and their summer international tour.