‘Quarter Life Crisis’, as its title suggests, is an album about existential confusion. Its creator, Baby Queen (born Arabella Latham) has spent three years writing about the disconnect between her schedule as a fast-rising artist – from major festival appearances to a recent cameo in Netflix’s Heartstopper – and returning to her personal life in between, over adrenaline-jolted melodies. It hasn’t always been a smooth-sailing journey: during the pandemic, Latham signed a major label deal – but it took place over Zoom. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life, and I was like, ‘What an anti-climax,’” she recalled to GQ last year.
In her songwriting, Latham revisits her previous challenges in an attempt to forge a fresh start. She is an artist who feels emotions deeply, but will also analyse her own destructive behaviours as well as her personal wins. After moving to London from Durban, South Africa at 18, and becoming involved in the city’s underground scene, she came out as queer and has since sought to articulate the liberation of that experience via both humour and vulnerability. This juxtaposition persists here: “The only man I find attractive is the Grim Reaper”, the now 26-year-old sings on ‘Love Killer’; the gauzy ‘Dream Girl’, meanwhile, details the emotional paralysis of crushing on a girl with a boyfriend.
‘Quarter Life Crisis’ moves between moods that translate to bright, Day Glo colours (‘Kid Genius’) or dark goth accents (‘Die Alone’). But the former can often turn grating; ‘We Can Be Anything’’s message of naïve optimism recalls the self-empowerment anthems that dominated pop radio in the early 2010s. There’s obvious appeal, however, in how Latham’s fanbase might feel somewhat comforted by her words – and that matters, to an extent.
It’s a divide that exemplifies this album, and leaves you wondering whether an audience beyond Latham’s own longtime followers will find something to connect with. Her earlier material, primarily the remarkable single ‘Dover Beach’, had a blockbuster quality in the way it layered heartache, lust and sadness with sublime confidence. Here, beyond the hard-hitting highlight ‘I Can’t Get My Shit Together’, Latham insists on pining for lost youth: “I am still a little kid,” she repeats on ‘Grow Up’.
A desire to offload these growing pains at length means Latham loses the exuberant personality that defined her 2021 mixtape ‘The Yearbook’. She often reiterates points that have already been made, and rushes emotional revelations towards an easy exit instead of keeping her gaze fixed forward. “How can I focus on the future when I’m one foot in the past?,” she asks on the title track. The question almost feels too apt.
- Release date: November 10
- Record label: Polydor
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