Fabricating the American high school cliche she never experienced herself, Baby Queen’s The Yearbook mixtape sees the much-hyped indie-pop artist explore a plethora of undeniably appealing tones
“I’m still grieving the person I used to be,” Bella Latham (aka. Baby Queen) declares on the opening track of her first mixtape release, which itself is named after her fast-growing fanbase – the Baby Kingdom. This subdued intro is a rare calm moment on a record that consistently utilises pop euphoria to release angst explosions, which is proven almost immediately with the huge walls of joyous synth summoned during the chorus of bi anthem ‘Raw Thoughts’, just one track that has made big impressions as a single and, more recently, on the live circuit.
It is this cathartic and contrasting combination of youthful anxiety and energetic soundscapes that Baby Queen has managed to perfect after just a year on the scene. Poignant and honest lyrics and buried deep within glossy layers of pop production, discussing a set of oddly specific experiences that carry resonant emotions; this unsuspecting but irresistible relatability is what drives the appeal of this project.
Containing fan favourites that have already evolved into established bangers alongside some very fresh content, The Yearbook is a collection of songs exploring the multiple facets of Bella’s self-described unstable life. Not intended to be wholly cohesive – we’ll have to wait for the upcoming debut LP for that – it instead gives an insight into her coming of age experience. Having grown up in South Africa and moved to London aged 18, she certainly has a whole bag of feels to unload and chooses to do so through an American fantasy. As she describes: “It feels confusing, happy, free, lonely… all of these things you go through when you are growing up.”
Be it through the shattering heartbreak of ‘You Shaped Hole’, the socio-political rage of ‘Narcissist’ or embrace of chaos on ‘I’m A Mess’, the stereotype characters adorning the artwork of this release succeed in repurposing 21st Century existentialism with a glowing new packaging, finding new highs by embracing past lows.
Perhaps the peak of this journey is ‘American Dream’; a well-placed feature with rising peer MAY-A accentuates this dreamy and outright fun banger that is now a road-tested set closer. ‘Dover Beach’s bittersweet and somewhat salty commentary on obsession takes on new life when fleshed out with its direct sequel, embodying the sad car ride back from a beach that once gave you joy.
The Yearbook is rounded off by the sonically mellow and thematically desperate ‘These Drugs’ and a piss-take of common arrogance with ‘Fake Believe’, both of which only further cement Bella’s exceptional lyrical capabilities. Smartly straightforward and charmingly witty in equal measure, the voyage of acceptance is completed here; despite the self-doubting lyrics of the opener, the mixtape reaches a place of self-acceptance and even self-embracement by its finale. This is a difficult journey to commence, but Baby Queen is using uplifting words and sounds to encourage listeners who may need a kick start to do. This is perhaps the core element explaining why her music has so suddenly appealed to so many and, with even more material on the horizon, will continue to do so.
Baby Queen’s The Yearbook mixtape is out this Friday via Polydor Records and is available to pre-order and pre-save now.