Joey LaBeija is known for crafting heavy-hitting club hits that work especially – but not exclusively – in ballroom house. It’s no surprise, given the fact that he’s a fourth-generation member of the House of LaBeija. He became a legend in the New York club circuit thanks to his monthly Legendary parties, and he’s successfully flipped music by artists like Drake and Tego Calderón into his own territory. But then why is his long-awaited debut Shattered Dreams so different from what we’ve heard from him before?
LaBeija wanted to make his first official release something special, and that’s why he decided to pour his soul out and put it all out there. Inspired by a year of break-ups, death, ending friendships and Björk’s Homogenic, he created a collection of songs that truly feel personal and full of emotion. Fluttery and shimmery synths adorn “Euphoria,” the opener, which starts out at a slow rhythm with bare programming, already removed from his past work. The song is bright and uplifting, so its title suits it very well. The deep and selective kick drums – when they appear – do resemble that 1997 Björk album.
But happiness isn’t necessarily the main feeling that emerges on Shattered Dreams, as the name of the record might suggest. The title track is directly influenced by trap, with slow beats and rippling hi-hats; he also introduces a line of synthetic strings reminiscent of Arca that runs through practically the whole track, creating an anxious and gloomy mood. “Over” also sits comfortably in the vein of hip-hop with some 90s R&B references, and it’s laden by a melody of plucked strings and arpeggiated synths. The song closes with a heartbreaking dialogue taken from the movie Closer, which matches both the concept and the vibe.
Speaking of 90s R&B, LaBeija doesn’t hold back on “Scrub (It’s Not Me, It’s You).” He directly extracts the main riff from TLC’s “No Scrub,” recontextualizing it in a more beautifully harsh setting. “Joey’s Inferno” is on a heavy middle ground between Nguzunguzu and Mumdance. It’s one of the tracks that can be linked to his vogueing background. He extracts the genre’s aggression, using it to his advantage. A piano-heavy chorus introduces the last track on the record, “Hatefuck.” He slowly turns up the BPMs until the track drops into an awesome mix of trap and ballroom, even using some of those fast snare rolls that are so characteristic of ballroom.
Shattered Dreams is a testament to Joey LaBeija’s versatility, and it’s one of those rare occasions when a club producer opens his heart and lets us into his world.