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WPGM Recommends: Mabel – High Expectations (Album Review)

When your mother is Neneh Cherry, the Swedish singer, responsible for song like “7 Seconds”, and your father is Cameron McVey, executive producer for artists like Massive Attack, Sugababes and Mutya Keisha Siobhan, it’s pretty obviously, you end up in the music industry too. Mabel, who was born in 1996, started her journey very quickly, but it doesn’t mean she’s following her parents’ steps.

She released her first songs (“Know Me Better”, “My Bow My Town”) back in 2015, but it was the next single called “Thinking Of You” that got her more recognized. Her musical influences were definitely focused on 90s and early 00s, as well as her fashion inspiration, but somehow she sounded and looked very fresh.

Finally, in 2016 she gained her first UK chart position with the catchy bubble pop record “Finders Keepers”. It was placed on her Bedroom EP, where she showed her sultry vocals on the title track. “So I broke your guitar up against your television / And I smashed every glass that you had in your kitchen”, she sings all bittersweet, showing she could be charismatic like Rihanna. Some months later, she released her silver mixtape Ivy To Roses.

Finally, on August 2, she presented her debut album called High Expectations. Mabel might get her fans confused by including her previously released singles on her new album, but songs like the aforementioned “Finders Keepers” and “Fine Line” helped establishing her position in the UK music landscape, so it makes sense.

The longplay opens with a sublime intro, then it flows naturally into an uptempo dance track titled “Bad Behaviour”. One of the advantages of the album is definitely its selection of the tracks. Mabel knows exactly when you need to turn it up and when it’s time to slow down a bit.

The British singer has presented a fresh body of work, and although some critics have compared her biggest hit “Don’t Call Me Up” to “New Rules” by Dua Lipa, Mabel shouldn’t feel offended by that at all. Both of these songs might not be huge empowerment anthems but they definitely have that “I’m-over-you” vibes. She brings the same feeling on “Selfish Love”, her collaboration with Kamille.

Lyrics through the album dwell on love and relationships. On “FML” she discusses her lover who’s changing moods and becoming more and more cold. “Fake, uh, I wanna delete your face, uh / You were just one big mistake, I, I can’t believe I let you”, she sings gently but with a bittersweet tone to her voice. “We Don’t Say” is based on a familiar motive, but the sound is more blurry and dreamy.

Despite her biggest hits like “Don’t Call Me Up” and “Mad Love”, Mabel showed a bit more of her talent on this album. The highlights beside the singles are songs like “Trouble” and “OK (Anxiety Anthem)”. The first is a romantic hazy track written to the singer’s lover, while the second is a very moving song about anxiety.

My hardest song to write. I pride myself as an honest writer and felt I had a responsibility to be as honest about this side of me as I am with relationships and other things that happen in my life”, Mabel explains abou “OK (Anxiety Anthem)” in one of the interviews.

It’s interesting that Mabel worked with so many top producers on this album. She collaborated with Steve Mac, Oak, MNEK and Snakehips, among others, and that’s a long list that Katy B would be proud of. On the second volume/part of the album, Mabel has also included her before hits like “Fine Line”, “My Lover” and “Ring Ring”, which is a small, but yet, very smart business move.

Vocally, Mabel doesn’t stand out much from the rest of the R&B scene, but there’s something fresh about her. High Expectations would sit seamlessly on any Spotify-Top-Ten-Hits type playlist.

The British singer could have followed her parents’ step, but she chose a different type of her music journey. Not better or worse – just different, her own. High Expectations lies somewhere between the most popular songs of Ella Eyre and Rita Ora. Summer vibes for 2019? For sure!

It only depends on Mabel, where she goes next… and with roots like hers, the determination and talent to make #1 songs, she could become unstoppable.

Mabel’s High Expectations album is out now via Polydor and Capitol, purchase it on iTunes here, and stream it on Spotify below.

Words by Julia Borowczyk

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