“It Starts Right Now.”
That’s what Ryan Beatty declares on “Haircut”, the opening track of his debut album Boy In Jeans. It’s an autobiographical take on his journey so far. That’s the best way to describe his career so far: A journey. When Beatty broke onto the scene in 2011, he was positioned as a teen pop heartthrob in the mold of Justin Bieber. That wasn’t him, though. On Boy In Jeans, Beatty reveals himself completely and authentically. Boy In Jeans is a far cry from the radio-ready Cali pop of his 2012 debut EP Because Of You and 2013 self-titled EP.
Between 2013 and 2018, a lot of changed for Beatty. First of all, he came out in 2016. His sexuality now permeates and elevates the subject matter of his music. Beyond revealing that truth, Beatty experimented with his sound relentlessly. Over the last 5 years he’s released singles and uploaded and deleted numerous originals and covers through iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud (including the flawless, rock-tinged, now-deleted “Stay Gold”). It’s clear that he took his time to find his sound and experimented with numerous genres, with stellar results. Boy In Jeans most closely follows in the musical footsteps of Frank Ocean and Miguel.
Boy In Jeans: Masterpiece
Boy In Jeans is an ambient, R&B/soul/pop, coming of age, coming out, masterpiece. Lead single “Bruise” is just one example of the brilliance of Beatty and collaborator Calvin Valentine (Valentine co-wrote & produced the entire album). Over a steady, driving beat, Beatty stories an in-between moment of his sexuality, while putting his “superstar” crush on a pedestal. A deeply pitched voice narrates as he abandons his high school girlfriend at a dance to make out with his man in the bathroom. Priorities, right? With a bridge that may or may not refer back to Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” (“boy in jeans, with the bleach-blonde imagery. Boy in jeans, 1995 fantasy”), it’s an indisputable earworm.
Like he does on BROCKHAMPTON’s stellar “BLEACH”, Beatty pitches his voice for the deeply relatable “Cupid”. It’s the all-too-common story of the gay boy and the not-so-straight boy intertwined in a secret affair, where the gay boy is harboring some real feelings. “Cupid got us fucked up” he sings while admitting his secret love is “the only one on my mind”. “Your girlfriend’s nice, but she hates me” he sings (she probably senses something is going on).
“Date me” he suggests, before walking it back with an “I’m just playing”, making excuses, and then coming full circle with “but if you’re down, then so am I, I can’t lie.” His feelings are running his mind. He’s unapologetically imagining the future: “when we get older, and y’all break up, and this is not a secret, maybe then you’ll say you love me back, but until then, I’ll be dreaming about that.” This ranks as one of the most well-articulated tellings of the classic “gay boy falls for the malleable straight boy” story.
“Oh My God!”
The album is filled with notable moments. The true peak of Boy In Jeans arrives just beyond the midpoint, at “God In Jeans”. Flanked with dreamy strings, it’s a bright slow burner with a piercing hook: “God is real, he was sleeping in my bed last night. We were naked with the radio on. I played him my favorite song.” It’s a gut-wrenchingly authentic song of absolute love. “If I’m going to hell I’m taking you with me”, he proclaims. His delivery is restrained, yet piercing, most notably his “oh my god!” in the middle of the second verse.
Beyond those shining highlights, Boy In Jeans is a stellar, cohesive body of work. Whether he’s pondering the end of youth on “Flash”, making veiled references to his first time on “Rhinestone” or chastising fair weather, money-hungry friends on “Money”, Ryan Beatty continually puts his best foot forward. These songs are raw, honest, and complimentary to his voice and it’s falsetto. Ryan Beatty is not the next Justin Bieber. He’s demonstrated that he’s so much more than that.
Stream Ryan Beatty’s Boy In Jeans: