The song was already a modest viral hit when the Canadian emo-rapper Powfu looped the hook into his downbeat tune “Death Bed” in late 2019. Powfu’s song became the favored backing music for countless TikTok videos of users confessing their secret love to unknowing crushes. The meme became so popular that the song was heard more than 10 billion times on the site just between February and May this year. By June, somewhat predictably, it popped up in a Dunkin’ commercial.
The reflected glow has been a boon for beabadoobee as a business, but for Kristi herself, who had little to do with “Death Bed” beyond approving the sample, it’s been a mixed blessing. “There were people who involved me with ‘Death Bed’ as that super-annoying chick that plays in the background,” she said. “But that song is a soundtrack to so many people’s TikToks. If there’s a cringey TikTok with that song in background, so be it. The fact that people like the music means something. They can scroll down and discover my other music.”
The songs on early beabadoobee EPs resembled “Coffee,” with Kristi’s hushed voice spilling her angst and heartache over extraordinarily pretty guitar melodies. But their simple productions were more a function of necessity than taste: “I’d listen to bands and be like, ‘I want to sound like this,’ but I just had a mic, guitar and bass.”
She gradually enlisted bandmates — the bassist Eliana Sewell, the drummer Louis Semlekan-Faith, the guitarist Jacob Bugden — and a producer, the ex-Vaccines drummer Pete Robertson, who helped make the noises in her head a reality. Her 2019 EP “Space Cadet” was a turning point. It plays like an unabashed love letter to ’90s alt-rock, complete with a shout-out to one of the era’s enduring figureheads, “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus.”
“Every EP I’ve released described a time in my life,” Kristi said. “‘Space Cadet’ was when I thought, ‘This is who I am. I’m going to do grunge-rock forever.’ Then I wrote ‘Fake It Flowers,’ and was like, ‘I have no idea who I am.’”
In the past, Kristi’s songs often found her pining for love and companionship, or convincing herself everything would be all right. But dynamic, angry new tracks like “Care” and “Dye It Red,” lash out. Love, she’s discovered, is a complicated beast. On the swooning, string-drenched ballad for her boyfriend, “Horen Sarrison,” Kristi undercuts the verses’ gauzy images of “pavement after the rain” and “the last empty seat on the train” with her admission in the chorus, “I don’t want you to feel comfortable.”