Monday, March 4th, 2024

Benson Boone – Beautiful Things

WE ARE SO BACK once again, with a theme day too! Can you guess what it is?

Photo of singer-songwriter Benson Boone.
[Video]
[3.71]

Kayla Beardslee: “Beautiful Things” evokes a desperate, heartfelt plea to a higher power that I, too, often find myself asking when the things I treasure are under threat: that is, Jesus Christ, how do we keep letting men get away with this?
[2]

Taylor Alatorre: So much for “Thy will be done,” I guess. “Thy will be done, as long as it means I get to keep this hot piece by my side” just doesn’t carry the same moral or lyrical weight. Boone’s hairless hair metal wailing may bring to mind the nu-glam crossover smash “Lips of an Angel,” but even a pro-adultery power ballad with that title manages to avoid being as theologically challenged as this one. Anyway, religion talk over. This is a gawky, lumbering Frankensong whose body is grafted together from the three or four types of rawk music that are allowed on pop radio this decade, and the only reason the score isn’t lower is that I’m constitutionally incapable of going below a [2] on a song that prominently features palm-muted guitar.
[2]

Julian Axelrod: I didn’t know anything about Benson Boone’s backstory until I read TSJ Legend Katherine St. Asaph’s writeup in Stereogum, but suddenly “Beautiful Things” made perfect sense as an audio origin story. You can hear the American Idol also-ran in the earnest six-string swell of the verses; the Imagine Dragons protege in the pained wails of the chorus; and the years in the TikTok trenches in the way he strings together several 30-second snippets into a semi-coherent whole. I had no idea he was a rollerblader until two days ago, but if you told me this song blew up soundtracking inline skate tricks I would absolutely believe you.
[5]

Joshua Lu: It’s easy to write this sudden chart-topper off immediately when you see the words “TikTok” and American Idol in Benson Boone’s biography, and the familiarity of every component of “Beautiful Things” doesn’t help its case. Rarely, however, does a Big Explosive Chorus actually feel earned — Ryan Tedder has been trying to create that exact climax for over a decade — and the ease with which Boone slides into that emotional outpouring tingles my brain.
[6]

Jeffrey Brister: Definitely not the most distinctive song, but there’s something in the execution. “Beautiful Things” has momentum: always pushing forward, anchored around Boone’s capable vocal performance. It drops out at the right moment and then absolutely EXPLODES in the chorus. It’s like an ideal version of the vaguely bluesy folky hoot-stomp music of the early- to mid-10’s. 
[7]

Rachel Saywitz: A mishmash of all our worst musical impulses from the 2010s: Ed Sheeran’s melodramatic pop lilt, Imagine Dragons’ overprocessed and underbaked rage, being inspired by Jon Bellion. I’d have a bit more fondness for “Beautiful Things” if it fully leaned into the Christian hard rock that its hefty chorus pulls from, but Boone’s melodies are already much too drab. Add any more weight, and the cliff he’s standing on would crumble instantly.
[3]

Katherine St. Asaph: I kind of like this! Seldom does someone unmarried come off as this much of a Wife Guy.
[6]

Isabel Cole: The verses are fine, I guess, but the chorus is so unpleasantly shrill that it zooms right past anxious and even beyond desperate, all the way into the realm of the guy who will physically block the door to keep you from leaving.
[2]

Aaron Bergstrom: I have spent far too much time trying to parse these lyrics, and I am no closer to unlocking Benson Boone’s theory of relationships, personal or supernatural. There’s a simple chauvinist reading here: girls are “things,” lacking in agency, given to men by God. Then again, chauvinism requires a belief in male superiority, and Boone seems to ascribe even less agency to himself. His mindset is something akin to learned helplessness: these “things” may be taken from him on the capricious whims of forces wholly outside his control. It’s not exactly Calvinist, as the future is still in flux, but there is nothing he can do to win or lose God’s favor. In the later verses, Boone gestures at acceptance: the idea that peace and sanity will come when he stops trying to exert his will in relation to the “things” is vaguely Taoist. Of course, this is immediately undone by the theatrical outburst of a chorus, pleading simultaneously with a girl who can’t help him and a God who won’t, and we’re right back where we started. So “Beautiful Things” is either a studied meditation on the human mind’s ability to entertain multiple contradictory thoughts at the same time, or it’s a lazy, jumbled mess of a song that I have now spent more time thinking about than Benson Boone ever did.
[2]

Nortey Dowuona: The first verse is bland, unobjectionable pablum of the Noah Kahan variety, then the pre-chorus is a slimy plea for her continued presence. Then, apropos of nothing, Boone pleads to God not to take the beautiful things he has. He can’t grasp the fears that make him believe he could lose his girlfriend, parents, fragile sense of self — he just pleads with an imaginary figure to hold onto the very real relationships he has, which he refers to as things. Things are cupboards, chairs, chips — creations of those who need them to be fed, to rest, to store food and clothes and sentimental trinkets. They can be beautiful, but they cannot be taken away by a God, simply forgotten or destroyed by people. Boone’s plea, which feels more like a demand, feels shrill and weak, unable to carry the sentiments it is supposed to express. The blustery, frustrated delivery of the chorus is appealing but feels out of nowhere — Boone is plaintive, even ruminating as the first verse trickles forth. The second verse is more compact, but its brevity sucks the power of the second chorus, since we are launched into a bellow after a whisper: unsettling and irritating, rather then engrossing and emboldening. The inability of Boone and producer/engineer Evan Blair to properly capture this despair forces mixing engineer Serban Ghenea to make certain leveling and processing choices to Boone’s voice and the piano that further sabotage the song due to the failings upstream. But ultimately, unlike some other folks here, I don’t hold this against Benson and his team. Grappling with the unending despair that comes with being a human being, then finding reasons in the relationships you have with your parental figures/romantic/platonic partners to not succumb, then fearing the loss of these relationships plunging you even deeper into that despair, is difficult. Many a songwriter has failed to convey these emotions. And failing to convey them is painful, but it is not worth any vitriol.
[4]

Alfred Soto: He’s cuddly, and he doesn’t care who knows it. Take his beautiful things and he gets mad. Or “mad.” I believe the rage like I believe the second half’s rock freak-out, i.e. not at all. All is not lost: he’s got passion, can leverage the sincerity, and, best, has good hair. 
[5]

Brad Shoup: Boone’s divebombs on the chorus are so post-grunge, it’s like he’s regifting a heart-shaped box. He’s certainly not desperate enough to hold my interest, nor to distinguish his voice from any host of TV-soul mushmouths.
[4]

Dave Moore: I instinctively shuddered when this started, but then the Adam Lambert glam whoa-oa-oas came in and I remembered, and even sort of missed, the important role of American Idol in the pop schlock ecosystem (Boone auditioned but withdrew). I guess AmIdol is like college now — why take on the debt when you’ve already got a job lined up? Anyway, I can tell this guy must already be or at some point will be enormous because I immediately thought of three family members I should send this song to.
[5]

Ian Mathers: I always knew there’d come a point where I felt like an old and out-of-touch curmudgeon when it comes to pop music. I hoped with the optimism of youth that it wouldn’t happen, but c’mon: why would I be the exception? It is profoundly disappointing that when it came, it was a lot less “I cannot understand these radical new genres, sounds, thoughts, emotions that are happening around me” and a lot more “can I please opt out of hearing generic pop/rock for as long as people are going to sing like this, it is profoundly annoying.”
[3]

Andrew Karpan: Despite his repeated, bleating agitated, sadboynumeta-framed requests to the contrary, someone really should take “all the beautiful things” away from this evil, short-mustached man. 
[2]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Really interesting as a piece of work without ever being “pleasant” or “good to listen to.” The verses feel like a calculated attempt to write one’s first song, all of the obvious plainspokenness and gee-shucks invocations of the almighty lined up with a clean execution that actual first songs tend to lack. The chorus is something else entirely, a rootsy stab at the soulful dubstep pop moment of about a decade ago. “Beautiful Things” is a puzzle with only unsatisfying conclusions, all of its choices together amounting to nothing much at all.
[3]

Leah Isobel: Gormless.
[2]

Reader average: [2] (1 vote)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Leave a Reply