It’s rare for an artist to build a distinctive world around themselves by the release of their debut EP, but that’s exactly what Baby Queen has spent the last six months doing. Since her first single ‘Internet Religion’ arrived in May, the South Africa-born, London-based newcomer has effortlessly cemented her sound and hallmarks, each release steadily bringing her M.O. more into focus.
On the ‘Medicine’ EP, things are crystal clear. BQ mastermind Bella Latham is a young musician with an innate knack for making big, sparkling pop songs, but also with the confidence and depth to use them to examine important issues, from the toxic effects of social media to depression and mental health. She’s also a brilliant lyricist, able to pen sharp, cynical satire that rolls off the tongue but doesn’t make you feel like you’re being chastised or shamed.
- READ MORE: Baby Queen: sharp, satirical and infectious bangers from one of pop’s most essential new voices
‘Pretty Girl Lie’, driven by glistening synths and a wiry guitar hook out of The 1975’s playbook, deals with unrealistic beauty standards and the Facetune and Photoshopped faux posturing of social media. “I get more likes when I don’t look like me,” Latham sighs at one point; “Well, fuck my life.” Partially informed with her own experiences of body dysmorphia, she’s described it as her way of telling her young listeners what they see online isn’t real and, like the pristine photos we see on the ‘gram, the glimmer and gloss suck you in, only for the façade to unravel once you consider the words you’re singing along to more closely.
On ‘Buzzkill’ – a pop gem with a grungy undercurrent – she details the social anxiety and depression that causes her to be branded a drag at parties, while ‘Medicine’ weighs up the positive and negative effects of anti-depressants (“If it wasn’t for my medicine/I’d wanna be dead again”). Candid ruminations on mental health may well be a go-to topic in pop music these days, but Latham finds fresh avenues to take the subject down – her lyrics drip with cynicism, the intention behind them never feels like it matches.
The ‘Medicine’ EP might seem like it also tackles romance, but its outwardly loved-up songs are really more inwardly-focused. The dreamy swoon of ‘Online Dating’ talks about having a “boy crush” on a match from an app, but the mystery man is secondary in the conversation to Latham’s perspective of dating in a digital world. “Kinda suits me that we don’t have sex,” she sings sweetly of the boy she’s never met. “I’m super self-conscious and mad depressed.”
Similarly, ‘Want Me’ candidly speaks of infatuation and parasocial relationships (yes, it’s about Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer), but only to create a vessel for its creator to explore her own insecurities in relationships. Like everything we’ve heard from Baby Queen so far, she matches those thoughts with melodies and music that are contrastingly bright and bold. When Latham told NME earlier this year this song was “the biggest banger of the year”, she wasn’t lying.
Throughout the EP there are fleeting moments where you can pinpoint artists that might have influenced these songs. ‘Want Me’s increasingly jittery spoken word verses and explosion of a chorus feel similar to Wolf Alice’s ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ (albeit without the Hollywood ending for Latham), while ‘Pretty Girl Lie’’s outro is reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s ‘The Archer’. Overall, though, Latham has moulded her own distinctive sound free from comparison and establishes herself as one of the most exciting, fresh voices in British pop.
- Release date: November 11
- Record label: Polydor