Album Of The Month (September 2021) *
(5 / 5)
Red hot contender for album of the year from Baby Queen. Mega-talented 24-year-old South African-born, London-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bella Lathum.
Trust me when I predict huge things for this gifted woman, based on her new release, the incredible so-called mixtape, “The Yearbook”. Quirky, diaristic, irreverent, brutally honest, crammed with clever lyrics. An incredibly well-crafted piece of work.
She kicked off her recording career with the release of her debut “Medicine” EP in late 2020 and since then a few singles. The experiences that informed the songs on “The Yearbook” unfolded when Bella moved to London at 18, joined rock bands and fell in love and headfirst into the city’s party scene.
“The Yearbook” includes previous singles releases “These Drugs”, “Dover Beach”, “American Dream” and “You Shaped Hole”.
Early on, she already has a legion of fans, including a few names you may recognise, such as Jodie Comer and Olivia Rodrigo. Olivia says: “I’m obsessed with Baby Queen, I think she’s so badass and I can’t wait to see what else she does in her career”. I whole heartedly concur.
I cannot recall the last time I heard an album and was genuinely sad that it ended. 10 tracks here. Gobsmacked this is a debut long player.
“Baby Kingdom” opens the set with a one minute and 25 second spoken word piece set to a funky electro track. She likes her synths.
“Raw Thoughts” is kind of early Madonna / Lily Allen. It’s fab. The brilliant “You Shaped Hole” (See the official video, below) reminded me of the late and the great, and the much missed Kirsty McColl. So infectious with a killer hook. Obsessed with this track and the latest single, “Narcissist”.
“American Dream” featuring MAY-A, is aptly very American-sounding. Ripe for TV and film sync soundtrack deals, for US audiences. Great chorus. She really has hooks nailed.
Current single “Narcissist” really is a belter. Courtney Love was bang on about Baby Queen on her Instagram: “Lyrics SO good. Choruses SO good. Visuals SO good. Fuck YES.”
“Narcissist” is a mix of attitude-drenched spoken word and singing. Peppered with the ‘F’ word, which actually adds value to the biting message here. Again, the hook will get in your head and stay there.
Displaying characteristic wit and candour, Baby Queen says “Narcissist” is “an admission of my own narcissistic tendencies, but also me trying to make sense of where those tendencies came from in the first place.
“I think women are told from the moment they are born until they can form their own opinions that beauty and vanity are the key to their success, and then they are berated when they are older for being self-obsessed or apathetic.
“Cosmetic companies want us to hate ourselves. There is money being made off our obsession with improving ourselves and our appearances. This song is just saying, ‘Yeah fuck you, I am a narcissist, and I am self-obsessed, but why do you think that is?”, she says.
Another track riddled with synth sounds, “Dover Beach”, a cross between one of Baby Queen’s favourite bands, The 1975, and Kirsty McColl/Lily Allen vocally. Superb track, and another one that will stick in your head.
“Dover Beach Pt. 2” another short spoken-word affair. Lamenting a lost love or a love that never was. She says: “I’d change the shape of my mouth if I thought you’d kiss me….” Her voice in the spoken stuff has a mesmerising quality to it and really holds your attention.
Darker mood to this one. “These Drugs”. Lyrically it is exceptional. Exploring mental wellbeing and being open about seeking a lift from chemical substances that only leads to more sadness and tears. This is no throw-away pop song. This is what raw emotions sound like.
Penultimate track, “Fake Believe” is a sassy electro-pop cut, with a cool vibe. Yet more clever, irreverent lyrics, such as: “I skipped every single class in the school of thought”. Me too, love!
“I’m A Mess” closes the set with its Kraftwerk/OMD 70s electro vibes. Laugh out loud moment at 21 seconds in, when she spits out: “Because when I try to drown my sorrows, the fuckers learn to breath; underwater, second daughter syndrome is a real thing….” Priceless.
Not an ounce of fat. Not a second of unnecessary stuff. It really is an incredibly accomplished and hugely enjoyable debut. Our “Album Of The Month” for September, and the editor and me are 100% agreed that this is a firm hot contender for “Album Of The Year.”
Attention: Judges for Grammy, BRIT, Ivor Novello, Mercury Prize – and more – awards…..This is a 24-carat gold winner. No contest!
Baby Queen aka Bella, is a breath of fresh air among the droves of soundalike, pop and r ‘n’ b wannabes churning out recorded by numbers, instantly forgettable mediocre dross to chase fame and make the suits lots more money. No chance of a full 15 minutes of fame for any of ’em!
Baby Queen has wowed festival crowds throughout the summer, including show stopping sets at Reading and Leeds. She starts her UK tour in October, and has added a third date to her debut headline shows at London’s Omeara in November, after the first two nights sold out in days.
Baby Queen Mixtape “The Yearbook”. Young rebellion and soul searching never sounded so good!
By Nick Best
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’