Last week, Beharie released his shimmering debut album, Are You There, Boy?, a record that delves deeper into the soul of a damaged boy with every track, set to a lucious and textured soundscape. In this brilliant world, the Norwegian singer explores the lighter and heavier sides of love. Beharie bares his heart through the lens of a multi-faceted semi-autobiographical character, chronicling experiences of loss, self-doubt, and unabashed queer love.
Across 12 tracks, Beharie artfully plays with a range of musical influences, blending funk-fueled melodies with sparkling harmonies, as seen on tracks like “Desire” and “Deadly.” There are also whimsical moments of love-struck jazz seen on “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” and “Deserve It.”
The album opens with the sweet tickling of keys that invite listeners into the Oz-like world of wonder and whimsy. “Wake Up” is a wonderfully paced introduction and offers some of the best vocal harmonies on the record. In this song, Beharie’s entranced in a liminal space between dream and reality, prompting a feminine voice to nudge him to awaken from the fantasy he’s found solace in. The angelic voice echoes, “I feel it coming, are you there boy?” Through the 40-minute album, Beharie processes lost love and confronts his grief in pursuit of regaining a sense of identity.
The singles from this album highlight Beharie’s ability to melt his sweet vocals into an array of dreamy soundscapes. The lead from this project, “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?,” provides a warm welcome into Beharie’s world, like the first rays of sunlight in the morning touching a budding poppy. Both lyrically and sonically, the song is about falling in love and the tender hopes of reciprocity. The backing harmonies are reminiscent of 40s Doo-Wop R&B, perfectly cushioning the lyrics “You’re the sun on the rise where my dreams come alive.”
Beharie’s follow-up, “Oh My God,” may possibly be the stand out track on this album. Where “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” feels like a mellowing sunrise, “Oh My God” is the direct inverse, opening with the lyrics, “Sun sets, I’m done, you know I wrote a note and left it at your door.” Beharie explodes with feelings of frustration after a long journey in the peaks and valleys with a lover. The wall of instrumentation and soul-bearing vocals prove that Beharie is more than a honey-dipped dreamy R&B artist.
At the vertex of reflection and realization, Beharie closes out the album with “Heaven.” Finally here he is able to explore his autonomy, boundless to anything or anyone. Over lofty backing vocals and haunting production he’s at his most raw, singing, “I always believed heaven had eyes, I’m on the outside looking in, in the end there’s nothing.”
It’s so clear how much work went into creating this body of art. It sounds meticulously curated to perfectly encase and preserve a set of memories, like something in between a dream journal and terrarium.
I am hoping Beharie will make his way to the US in the coming year to tour this album, though it seems he hasn’t yet broken into our mainstream ether. For now, he is set to take his talents through Northern and Western Europe at the beginning of 2024.
Are You There, Boy? is out now.