Bella Latham, probably better known as Baby Queen, does not stand still. You’d think that releasing a six-track EP (reviewed here) just half a year after your debut single would give an artist space and time to take a break. Instead, Latham’s kicked off 2021 by getting hyped up by Courtney Love, and with a new project – a conceptual body of work loosely set around a collection of high-school stereotypes.
Her first single of the year, January’s ‘Raw Thoughts’, is the stoner. Spacey, slightly disconnected vibes are omitted as we stumble through a vaguely obsessive track about who I assume to be the character’s ex-friend/crush. So far, so regret-filled teenager who’s hit the joint a bit harder than necessary. Defying the hazy vibe and airy instrumentation, this is yet another one of Baby Queen’s masterclasses on lyric-writing. Who else is dropping in words like labyrinthine, and managing to not sound outrageously pretentious? No-one, that’s who. This doesn’t stop the choruses being direct as required – ‘I got fucked up again, I was crying’ has a certain direct openness that flowery language will never reach. It’s a tightrope walked with the grace of an Olympic gymnast.
Just make sure your first listen isn’t to the music video. Censoring really is a great way to dampen the mood.
‘These Drugs’ followed in February and is absolutely my favourite of these two. The single cover has some sort of emo look but let’s be real – this isn’t rock. It’s a deeply tragic lament of self-deprecation laid over a deceptively shining backing track. Without any vocals, you’d probably think this was something miserable that builds to a euphoric re-discovery of the self and fresh dawn of positivity. The darker tilt is clear from very early on:
“If you saw me through the eyes of a bathroom stall
Your skin would crawl
But I am not a sycophant for a good time”BABY QUEEN – ‘THESE DRUGS’
The theme of self-disgust is the central drive of the whole song. There is no doubt that any part of this is even slightly dishonest. The bravery to put this out as her eighth song is astonishing. As is the immense skill with which it was executed. You are fully absorbed from the first palm-muted acoustic guitar chord. I really don’t have the words to express just how excellent an anti-pop song this is (even though I hate the term, but it fits the song).
What’s more, despite the sheer lack of positivity of the theme, there are some lines that drag you back to the vague hope of exhiliration. While the middle-8 barrels through a deeper acknowledgement of the problems faced, you aren’t downtrodden, you’re vibing. “Damned if I do, bored if I don’t” is one hell of a line, a balancing act of misery and joy so carefully maintained.
The message is clear – Baby Queen is here to take her rightful position as the biggest thing in alternative pop. Frankly, it’s about time that The 1975 got brushed aside.
With this level of quality, and bigger songs still to come, this era of Baby Queen looks set to eclipse what other artists might see as career-defining. With festival slots booked, a position supporting Sea Girls in the autumn, and a tour sure to follow at some point, this really could be the year things blow up, and you won’t want to miss it.