Baby Queen: “Courtney Love said I shouldn’t call myself a pop star; Rock stars get away with more and stay longer’

“I’m Lucy and my parents suck!” It’s Thursday night in Camden and Arabella Latham, or Baby Queen as she’s better known, is onstage doing a little ad hoc therapy during the performance. With pigtails and a T-shirt depicting a lucky bear smoking weed, Latham whips up catharsis. “My name is Claire and I’m a depressed psychology student!” wails another fan. Everyone cheers in response. Latham takes the mic: “I’m Bella and I’m a bloody narcissist!” The words proved more of a rallying cry than a contrite confession, however, as Latham and the crowd intoned their bitter single “Narcissist.”

The song is classic Baby Queen: a vociferous admission of unflattering sentiment and cultural criticism rolled into one. Their genre is punk-oriented pop or pop-oriented punk, reminiscent of artists like Willow Smith and Billie Eilish. Tonight, Latham shreds through tracks on her pink guitar about pretending on social media, losing sex drive from antidepressants and online dating. Each of them has a brutal honesty that’s like a siren’s song to the crowd, who obviously feel exactly the same way. The crowd is growing, thanks to Latham’s name being on the BBC Sound of 2022 nominee list, two features on the soundtrack for Netflix’s hit show heart stopperand an upcoming tour with Gen Z it girl Olivia Rodrigo.

The electrifying truth of Latham’s music has propelled her into one of the most exciting acts of the future. And also at the right time. The 24-year-old’s sad bangers fit very well into the recent wave of songwriting, which captures the zeitgeist of what it means to be young in 2022. Backstage, Latham is similarly outspoken. “To be honest, I’m always super honest,” she tells me when we meet before the show. “Especially after a tequila shot.” But while Latham needs some liquid courage from time to time, baby Queen never does. “Baby Queen says things I might not say. She’s very brave.” Latham laughs at herself after realizing she’s slipped into the third person. “She’s the best damn bitch in the world. I’m glad to have them.”

Latham was born in South Africa, but baby Queen is all London. Latham moved when she was 18. “I felt limited,” she says. Personally and professionally. “My ambitions were bigger than that.” In London, she got a job at vinyl store Rough Trade East, but was regularly “broke” and stealing sandwiches from Tesco. “I had this very jaded, satirical view of what I saw around me. I made fun of the things that annoyed me about society.” Those early instincts are everywhere in the music, which presents her as a hardened observer of modern civilization – albeit one with a bloodthirsty instinct for catchy hooks. It didn’t take Latham long to realize that the more directly she spoke about what she was seeing, the better her audience responded.

One of the more frustrating aspects of mental health conversations is how quickly they can reduce our individual circumstances to a stale cliché. Latham takes a different approach. There is one feature that surprises even her, a former poet. “My writing used to be a lot more metaphorical and who knows if I’ll go back that way, but now it feels like Baby Queen is the one who’s saying it exactly as it is, even if she’s saying it in really clever words, something.” confusing.” Still, there are some issues Latham is reluctant to discuss just yet. A song – about her experience of sexual harassment and abuse – has been on hold for three years. “I’ve told my label that I don’t feel like I’m ready yet.”

Latham’s candor about nearly everything offers some kind of relief to the listener. Pop music has always tended to have pretentious messages, and loving yourself is great and all, but it’s also a fantasy — at least for a lot of people. Latham included. Yes, she knows Photoshopping her legs “to the bend of the door” is wrong, but alas, here we are. “There are a lot of things going on around us that we never talk about, but we all struggle with it all the time. So if you hear someone say it, you might not be able to change it, but you can recognize it and feel like you’re not crazy.”

It would be wrong to assume, as I do, that Latham’s music attracts a younger audience; A scan of her Camden audience confirms that’s not true. Feeling like s*** doesn’t get old even if you could. And it’s not just young artists like Rodrigo who have caught the eye of Latham’s talent. “Just discovered Baby Queen today,” Courtney Love gushed on Instagram last year. “Text SO good. choruses so good Visuals so good. Compositions, ok not perfect but for a lonely girl just starting out? Better than everyone else lately. F*** YES.” The Hole frontwoman reached out to Latham personally. “There was a time when I was at her house on the weekends.” It was on one such weekend that Love gave Latham the best advice of her life. She mimics Love’s husky, American intonation and recites it to me: “Don’t call yourself a pop star; call yourself a rock star. Rock stars get away with more and stick with it longer.”

Latham took the advice to heart. “Pop stars are so damn boring. I can not stand them. I fucking hate them,” she says, making it clear that the pop stars she’s talking about are “what we know as pop stars today.” She sighs: “To me, there’s nothing more annoying than someone who has a massive reach and sings about grinding at the club. It is empty. Sorry I have very strong opinions.”

“I think I made it very, very clear in the subject I’m writing about that I’m not someone you want to be,” says the singer

(Universal Music)

However, strong opinions do not always lead to creative clarity. And Latham is the first to admit that Baby Queen isn’t the same musician she was a few years ago. Really, she just came out of an identity crisis. “It was a complete meltdown,” says Latham, who is in the process of writing her first album. “Originally I wanted to make a pop record, like my own 1989, but I felt really disconnected from the songs.” She credits the existential reckoning with a playlist Love made her. “It was full of nineties rock. That totally blew my mind,” she laughs. It helped Latham realize that “Baby Queen isn’t a pop star. It’s grungier than that. Dirtier.” And so, Latham washed her hands off pop and “literally threw up an entire album” to start fresh. One of their more recent releases — the sludgy underdog anthem “Wannabe,” oozing Love throughout — is an indicator of what’s to come. “It’s going to be this extreme left-wing crazy rock album,” she grins.

Rock or pop, every record Latham releases will be distinctive and undeniable she. The world after Baby Queen. And a whole bunch of other people too, judging by their ever-expanding baby kingdom. But Latham is quick to shrug off the “role model” label. “I think I’ve made it very, very clear in the subject I’m writing about that I’m not someone you want to be,” she says. But what they will admit to being correct are their core beliefs. “I think my overarching ideologies of freedom and life are good. I think I nailed it.” She laughs. “It’s the way I live my private life that takes some work.” Baby Queen: “Courtney Love said I shouldn’t call myself a pop star; Rock stars get away with more and stay longer’


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