Dylan doesn’t write love songs, exactly. The artist, born Natasha Woods, sings of preludes and endings, teasing different lanes of romance: from the dizzying high of a first date to the many small infinities of heartbreak. The 23-year-old sharply juxtaposes youthful innocence – gasping in awe at a new love’s potential – with a sharp wit that suggests that anyone who does her wrong is ripe for a takedown: “Messing with my head for pleasure / You ain’t tall enough to act like that,” she affirmed on her straight-talking breakout hit, ‘You’re Not Harry Styles’. Clearly, she has a gift for line delivery that grants her takedowns a brilliantly spiteful glow.
On her debut mixtape, ‘The Greatest Thing I’ll Never Learn’, Dylan conveys this attitude with roaring guitars and the commanding hooks of Charli XCX’s ‘Sucker’ era. It’s a collection of neon-pink power pop that teases heavier influences, and maintains both tight riffs and a confident snarl. If this sounds like a lot to swallow, then you’re absolutely right: it’s a crowded but self-assured record – but Dylan has learned that by going for the big feelings, she inspires near-rapturous devotion. A UK headline tour booked for next spring has been long sold out, following a 2022 spent playing over 100 shows and supporting both Ed Sheeran and Tate McRae.
After finding an audience on TikTok during the pandemic, Dylan seeks to differentiate herself from her peers through her humour; she embraces and often lampoons her own independence. “Sex, pay cheques, relationships / Everything will go to shit”, she sings on ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, running into a glittering, booming chorus that recalls the reckless fun of The Pointer Sisters. ‘Blue’, a mid-tempo ballad about giving your heart the space it needs to hurt, proves that she can reach for anguish, too: “Have you had enough? / Of being apart / And forcing a spark with someone to close the hole in your heart?”.
It’s these moments of candid songwriting that make ‘The Greatest Thing I’ll Never Learn’ feel like you’re peeking into someone’s fleeting thoughts on a private Twitter account – the perfect soundtrack as another glorious Hot Girl Summer fades into autumn. Dylan’s sharp lyrics mirror the vivid production: the high-speed, dramatic synth stabs on ‘Lovestruck’ and harmony layering on ‘Girl Of Your Dreams’ are both supercharged with colour.
The mixtape’s consistency is a credit to Dylan’s megawatt presence, but there are brief moments where the pace becomes so brisk that the focus moves from detail to speed: ‘Treat You Bad’ is hurried and breathless, weighed down by a thumping drum beat. But otherwise, she proves that her self-belief is her strongest stance: this is a major label debut with unfiltered personality in abundance, a rarer commodity than it should be today in UK pop.
- Release date: October 27, 2022
- Record label: Island