Boo Boo|Toro y Moi (2016)
Produced by Toro y Moi | Carpark
Listening to Boo Boo by Toro y Moi is a profoundly nostalgic experience, taking me back to childhood in the late 80s/early 90s. There is a particular sound he manages to capture from the past while staying fresh and relevant to modern tastes. He recalls the 1980s R&B of Al Jarreau, mixed with the Miami sound, but never playing as cheesy, but respectful of the roots of what he’s trying to make. The dreamy synthpop keyboards float the listener away to a white sands beach on the Atlantic, likely somewhere around Toro y Moi’s old stomping grounds of South Carolina. The snappy drum loops capture that long ago feeling of childhood for people in my generation.
Boo Boo is an album about transitions, moving from obscurity to enough notoriety to disrupt your life, how life’s changes can take a once-promising relationship and crumble it. Chaz Bundick aka Toro y Moi expressed that Boo Boo is about his identity crisis concerning fame, how he struggled with public expectations of future work and touring. Inspired by artists like Frank Ocean, Travis Scott, and many others, Bundick stated that “I recognized that the common thread between these artists was their attention to a feeling of space or lack thereof. I decided that I wanted to make a Pop record with these ideas in mind.”
There is a sense that you’re moving through a physical space as you listen to the record, which is infused throughout with Bundick’s chillwave sensibilities. The lyrics are centered around feelings of longing on the surface for a past relationship, but I think more about a lost simpler time.
In the opening track “Mirage,” Bundick sings:
Take me far away
‘Cause I know my words can be a waste of breath
Space is running low
She thinks I’m guilty of this crime
But I don’t think I’ll wait for tomorrow
Tomorrow’s so far
It seems like a flaw in the design
I seek you out, and you never seem to have the time
Life has changed for the singer and someone else, a former lover. He’s in a place that’s constraining him, and he’s realized that the more of life that goes on, the more the distance between them grows. This sentiment is something I’ve felt, happy with where my life has taken me but still pining for those college days and the potential for adventure and excitement that existed in that space.
“No Show” acts as a thesis statement for the album with the refrain:
Oh—wasn’t even thinkin’ we were going worldwide
Figured it was better than the southern life.
A place where we have all been, seeking to run from your hometown as a youth to a greater future and finding yourself contemplating that your past is a thing you long for now.
It’s been a while since I’ve been home
It took a second ’cause my baby don’t know—I
Been so hesitant, I’m such a no show—why?
My baby got fed up with my ego, oh
The singer is honest in his assessment of his recently failed relationship. Because he was on tour, hanging out in places like Oakland across the country, he found his partner back home feeling pushed away. His ego has exploded way out of proportion, and she’s done with him now. In the pursuit of his career and the avalanche of fame that comes with it, the singer has lost something that had meaning and depth in his life.
“Girl Like You” serves as a contemplation on being tossed back into the dating game, questioning motivations and dealing with the complexity of hook up culture.
Dreaming a connection
I can meet you downtown
I’ll take you where you wanna be tonight
Too much looking around
I can see how this happens
Using up all the lifelines
Tryna turn out decent
The singer knows if he goes with the flow, he could hook up with a different woman every night, but if he is honest with himself, knows this won’t fulfill what he’s searching for. He wants a relationship built on something of substance, but everyone around him is caught up in the party scene, living only for the moment.
The track immediately following, “You and I” is a perfect recreation of a 1980s ballad about a love that’s ending:
In the desert, you came into my mind
Mother Nature, you gave me a lifetime
I thought twenty-nine was an easy one to get through
Just to summarize, I don’t think we’re done with all the issues
I don’t think it’s me; I don’t think it’s you, it’s the universe
I can feel a change coming over us, and it’s gonna hurt
The helplessness expressed in these lyrics is palpable, the inevitable of the downfall crashing over these young people like a tidal wave, pulling them apart and leaving them to drift out to sea apart. The singer contemplates his role in disconnecting from what was happening around him:
I’m just a satellite, I been zonin’ out
This music’s way too loud
There’s only really one reason I know what to feel
Is that I know this weight is more than real
He’s going to embrace the fall because he’s finally experiencing real emotion for the first time in a while and, while it is painful, he knows that it’s more honest than what he’s been occupying his time with.
Boo Boo acts like a funkier version of Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise’s collaborations, an earnest collection of songs about romantic pain. The sound is a perfect lost and dreamy summer mood, music to listen to during a lonely sunset on the beach, looking out across an uncertain and vast horizon.