What makes a pop star? It's a concept that's thrown around freely. Still, there's a difference between merely any musician you might be able to pull out of a line-up and a real celestial force. It's not about the number of zeros on the end of a record contract, or the volume of streams delivered a month. It's about attitude, personality and a certain 'je ne sais quoi' that eludes the pack. It's action, it's drama, it's being able to gracefully weave a whole universe around a few songs.
Baby Queen is 100% a pop star.
In the six months since her fizzing, attention-grabbing first single 'Internet Religion' arrived, Bella Latham has established a character that emits pure pop energy. Able to bait and switch between different aspects at will, she packs both a unique, defined identity and the ability to project that visage through subtly different prisms. Baby Queen is fresh, engaged and plugged-in, but also at times achingly cool, gloriously silly, deliberately brash or delicately subtle. Sometimes, she's everything at once - and it's brilliant.
Her debut collection 'Medicine' has a Big Pop Bangers Only door policy - and when we say big, we're talking gargantuan. Pulling subjects from the zeitgeist, from mental health to social media burnout and bullshit, Latham manages to be a sneering satirist and a wide-eyed dreamer within the same cutting phrase. Knowing yet innocent, it never once comes across as cynical or angry for the sake of it.
Take the grunge-pop party burnout anthem 'Buzzkill'. Dripping with social anxiety, it's dry and self-aware, but also juxtaposes with day-glo energy round the edges. While the words cut close to the bone, they're never delivered in a way which feels deliberately performative. They're real emotions, raw and unedited, but also inclusive and hopeful too.
'Want Me', a hundred-mile-an-hour fever dream about infatuation from afar, may be written about Killing Eve's Jodie Comer, but beneath that there's far more going on. Ridden with subtle insecurities, it's a supercharged version of Wolf Alice's 'Don't Delete The Kisses', dusted with coloured sherbet and wrapped in liquorice straws. 'Pretty Girl Lie', on the other hand, deals with identity in the social media age. "I get more likes when I don't look like me," Latham opines, not so much as a pitying moan, but more a self-accepting assessment of where we're at. While the digital world may not be as real as we think, there's an authenticity to Baby Queen's lyrics that cut through the bullshit.
Each of these individual moments hangs together perfectly, clashing and complementing in equal measure. Every one is a window into Latham's brilliant mind, cast in an indefinable magical light. Any artist coming out of the blocks with such big, bright vision risks appearing forced - of trying too hard to make it stick - but that's never once true here. Pop stars aren't really made, they arrive. Roll out the red carpet and clear the way - the era of Baby Queen is coming up fast.