July’s Artist Of The Month has given us some of the best singles of the year so far, and easily my favorite song of the year. Check it out below!
Name: Baby Queen (real name Bella Latham)
Hometown: Durban, South Africa (now based in London)
Genre: “Anti-pop” – read more here.
For Fans Of: Lorde, Taylor Swift, Clairo, The Aces
Why You Should Care: I think most of us can agree that we use social media in an ironic and hypocritical way. One minute (or for several) we are mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, tapping through our favorite influencer’s several stories, or hyping up our friends in the comments on their newest post. The other minute we are critiquing ourselves and others (strangers or our best friends) for the way they look, talk, or just the way they present themselves online overall.
As our worlds continue to shift online even further, with job roles going entirely remote, concerts being live-streamed, and happy hours taking place over Zoom calls, it’s inevitable that our relationship with the internet is going to keep getting more perplexing. Baby Queen writes for that feeling. The confusion, the discomfort, the clashing feelings, the melodrama of it all. She takes the feeling of anxiety and dread combined with the “I need to show off my new shoes!” and combines it all into one narrative—one that is catchy, snarky, and self-deprecating all in one. It’s like her writing is the love child of “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift and “Love It If We Made It” by The 1975.
With only two singles released thus far, “Internet Religion” and “Buzzkill,” it’s easy to see that the best of Baby Queen is well within reach. Though it hasn’t been easy for artists to release and promote their work in the age of a pandemic, it’s almost like Baby Queen’s sound was meant to blossom during this specific moment, primarily when we needed it most.
Check out our Q&A below:
Chicago Haze: “Internet Religion” is your first single. What inspired you to pursue music?
Baby Queen: I think any reasons for pursuing music are complex. I had this really heavy desire as a child to have a purpose, or to feel significant: I still have an obsession with purpose. When I started writing at 11, I realised it was something that I could do, and I could do it better than I could do anything else. It was the first time I really felt heard, and like I could change something. Over time, that has become the most important thing. Using music to turn pain into something beautiful, or to turn pain into change, is what gets me out of bed. It doesn’t feel like it’s about me anymore, which is freeing.
Chicago Haze: The accompanying music video does a pretty incredible job encapsulating not only what the song is about, but you managed to sum up all of the catastrophes (natural ones and manmade ones) that seem to be all unraveling simultaneously in the world right now. How did you come up with the idea behind the video?
Baby Queen: I think the experience we have on social media now is so invasive and so overwhelming that we can spend 10 minutes scrolling through Instagram and put our phones down feeling completely exhausted. I really wanted the video to mirror the sensory overload experienced on the internet and I’m actually a really big fan of an artist called Ryan Trecartin who makes films that are a comment on our digital identities. Brainwash (the director group) and I discussed the ways in which we could translate the satire of the song into a visual and the whole thing was shot at home using a go-pro in the depth of quarantine!
Chicago Haze: Do you think your relationship with the internet has gotten better or worse during quarantine?
Baby Queen: My relationship with the internet is pretty good now, but I would say quarantine has definitely aggravated my acute cyber-addiction. I’m embarrassed to say that some days I’ve looked at my screen time and it’s told me I’ve spent 6 hours on social media – NOT iconic. I definitely don’t feel comfortable without the stimulation of it, which is quite bad. I used to experience body dysmorphia when I spent time online as a teenager because I followed models and the Kardashians. I only follow my friends and people who inspire me now. I don’t want to compare my life to a fake version of somebody else’s anymore.
Chicago Haze: You’ve mentioned you are a huge Taylor Swift fan—so am I. I have to ask for personal curiosity (and a lot of Chicago Haze’s readers are also fans of hers)—what are your favorite songs by Taylor? How has she inspired your music?
Baby Queen: Taylor Swift was the first artist I really found on my own and started listening to outside of the music my parents used to play. I remember the first time I saw the “Love Story” music video on the television and I immediately decided I could do what she was doing. Okay, my favourite songs?! The best way to do this is by album, so here we go.
Chicago Haze: Speaking on that…who else inspires your music?
Baby Queen: As a child, I listened to a lot of music by Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles; I think they were my earliest influences. In the studio, my producer King Ed and I speak a lot about St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, Anna Calvi and MGMT. As a lyricist, my most influential groups and artists have been The 1975, Kate Tempest, Taylor Swift and Lorde.
Chicago Haze: How has moving around as an adolescent influenced your creative process and sound?
Baby Queen: When I lived in South Africa, I made really Americanised country-pop music, because I was only listening to Taylor at the time. I moved to London when I got really depressed at 18 and started listening to super emo music. At many times whilst living in the city, I was sleeping on friends’ floors and couches and the madness of the lifestyle was reflected in how I was writing and what I was writing about. That’s why this first era of music is quite manic and full of information. A lot of it is characterised by me finding my own identity during that time. I’m starting to write differently now. My life is more stable and I’m a lot happier—it’s going to be interesting for sure.
Chicago Haze: What are you wanting to accomplish moving forward since your debut single has been released?
Baby Queen: I want to connect with people, and I want to be the person that I needed when I was younger. I really want to make music that proves that pop music is not characteristically shit, it only tends to be. It’s so important, now more than ever, that music really means something, and really says something. Also- I want to drink wine with Taylor Swift and sing a song at The Grammys. That’s it.
Chicago Haze: Anything else you’d’ like to add?