Dec 6 Ryan Beatty - Boy In Jeans Reviewed by @Jonathan27 When I was in college, I took a Queer Studies course. During that course, I learned plenty of insights into how queer identities are shaped, but one of the things that has stuck with me was this: as queer people, our sexuality goes through multiple transitions. From the outside, there’s simply coming out publicly. But internally, we have to negotiate our sexuality with the perception of it we learn based on our environment. Most of us don’t get to grow up knowing another queer person, so it’s a lonely journey in realizing that you are not only different, but you also have to consider how that difference will affect others’ perceptions of you. We come out twice in theory - once to ourselves and again to the world - but in reality we have to come out every time we get close to someone. This often times splits our identity and the presentation of it; we have our inherent identity and our social identity. Boy in Jeans is at its core an American coming of age story, but it benefits from navigating social hurdles only now becoming visible in media. I wasn’t lucky enough to have an album like this during my adolescence, yet I can’t help but be taken back to long drives on back roads and unanswered text messages, paranoia and internalization of desires. This is in part due to Beatty’s emphasis on traditional American imagery: school dances, nights spent staring at the bedroom ceiling, summer love that fades like a sunburn. It’s this fleeting romance to which all other threads of Ryan Beatty’s story return. Much of Boy in Jeans juxtaposes traditional American ideology with burgeoning expressions of sexuality. “Haircut” opens the album and likens coming out to its title subject, an arbitrary modification to your identity that changes how you are socially perceived. This transitions into “Euro”, a reformation of identity; no longer burdened by secrecy, now he must form his own self presentation where his sexuality can exist as a facet of his identity. This paints youth with shades of recklessness and release. “Money” alludes to the inherent insecurities queer people feel through their perceived flaws (“Call me good, call me bad, don’t care what you say just call me back”). Guilt infects Beatty’s lyrics on the songs that grapple with reality. He ponders if he’s become a liability for his parents, touching on his own lack of self belief on “Pink Floyd” and how facing his sexuality has led to uncertainty. Coming out means expressing a new identity socially and intrinsically; what does an inner dialogue no longer riddled with fear of exposure sound like? This renaissance of youth leads to recklessness; “Crash” likens impulsive desires to a car wreck, racing down the highway towards a temporary destination. As queer people we aren’t inherently accepted by everyone; we feel we have to earn it, and when we fall in love we cling to it so desperately in fear that it may dissipate as quickly as it came. This shapes the other major theme of Boy in Jeans: first love. Beatty is in the unique position of coming out to someone else while exploring his sexuality simultaneously. “Cupid”, the first song to directly address a romantic relationship, is also the first to utilize alternate voice to differentiate reality from his perception of it. Beatty’s vocals are pitched up, echoing the stream of consciousness that unravels in the lyrics as he sneaks out of a school dance to meet his lover. “Pitch black, I’m on the opposite side of the fence just to give you a kiss.” The teenage frivolity of kissing is lost though, killed by circumstances. Feverish lust can only flourish in the shroud of darkness, and as Beatty’s natural vocal comes through against a choir of pitched layers it’s desperate and determined. “What do you want from me? I’ll give it to you, you just gotta ask.” In the moment it’s enough to know someone else wants you just as badly. Like a fever dream it’s here and gone, metamorphosing into a single line: “this is not real. This is a real memory. A real. Memory.” There’s something indescribably beautiful about seeing someone you love in uninhibited joy, and Beatty is awestruck on “Bruise”. Recounting the same night that found two boys disappearing from a dance, this time the narrator is inoculated with desire. Beatty’s voice becomes more urgent with each chorus, electric guitar cutting the skyline. It’s here that we find the titular theme: “Boy in jeans with the bleach blonde imagery, boy in jeans 1995 fantasy.” The verses breathe life into the world around them: there are strangers now, faceless characters shifting like tectonic plates. There’s the girl Beatty left dancing as he chased his lover, crying on his shoulder when he returns. The words are pitched down now: “I’m selfish, ‘cause all I can think about is you.” This guilt seeps into the most intimate moments on Boy in Jeans, ejecting its narrator from fantasy. Reality splinters his desires and suddenly there’s a chasm between Beatty and the boy he loves. This culminates on “Party’s Over”, a wistful plea as eyes lock across the room. Production flutters under falsetto as the physical world and dream state converge with possibilities that all lead to dead ends. Beatty is content to settle at this impasse, detailing a summer of love that blossomed into talk of forever. He likens his lover to a god, sex the consummation of something sacred as radio drenches the room in familiar sounds. Often young sexuality is expressed with apprehension. When you find someone wholly accepting of you for the first time, when what feels right can be right, it’s next to spiritual. This also alludes to the liberation that loving openly allows: some point to religion as the sole driver of purpose, yet it can be found just as easily in the eyes of another. Beatty recounts a moment of disarming vulnerability where his lover finds him crying. It’s met with assurance, and for maybe the first time there’s no hesitation: “Tears of joy, I pray to the open sky: this is the one I wanted. This is everything.” Beatty keeps this in the back of his mind: “Summer’s over when I die.” This is the most honest self he’s expressed, and keeping it means crystallizing in a world that threatens to suffocate him. Beatty spends the final stretch of Boy in Jeans locked in penultimate crisis. “Summer’s over when I die.” This is the most honest self he’s expressed, and yet suburban suffocation threatens to crystallize him. The only thing keeping him here has been the only thing that’s anchored him to sanity. “I’m not ready to say goodbye” he declares, but the outcome is already determined. Drums bubble underneath the chorus, words of Hollywood hopefuls interspersed in the background. The weight of the future feels insurmountable when you’re young, a shot in the dark and a prayer that threatens to be swallowed by fear. The narrator’s decision ends in ellipses before skittering synths reveal a new world on “Rhinestone”. Here Beatty doesn’t need the shelter of night to express his desires; he wears it like a gem fastened to his jacket. Still, he beckons to his old lover to meet him in the clouds: “It’s better when you’re right next to me.” Sometimes, we meet people who we are meant to know forever. Others drift in and out of our lives as time passes. Yet it’s the ones driven from us by life’s circumstances who seem to weigh on us the heaviest. In their absence it’s merely the ways they shape us that remind us how important they were to not only our lives but our future. “Rhinestone” feels assured in a way none of the songs before it could ascertain, and there’s a glimmer of the past keeping Beatty looking towards the future. Forever changed, forever known.