REVIEW: baby queen’s “medicine” doses up depression bops
Baby Queen, real name Bella Latham, is very online. More importantly, she seems to understand the depths of insanity that being a very online person exposes you to. Medicine, her first EP, is as much a critique of the internet as it is a hyper-modern confessional about mental health, relationships, and social norms. It’s easy to compare these themes to The 1975’s A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, but Baby Queen comes at her topics with a youthful and feminine energy that sets her apart. Though she wears her influences on her sleeve, Medicine is a compelling opening statement from a fresh new artist with a lot to say.
Lead single “Internet Religion” is perhaps the best existing example of Baby Queen’s promise. A catchy pop-rock track laden with scathing criticism of our reliance on social media, it also serves as a sort of manifesto for the whole EP. Her deadpan urgency as she delivers lines like “I'm done saving the world so take a look at these / Cool shoes, take a look at me, me, me!” over fuzzy guitar is immediately striking. Despite this being her first single, she already shows mastery over heavy lyricism (at one point, she sings that all of her friends are “broke and most of them want to die”) as juxtaposed with pop-friendly composition.
“I realised that I love dark, complex lyrics over a really happy-go-lucky chord progression,” she said in her press statement. Every song on Medicine follows this formula and, frankly, it bangs. “Pretty Girl Lie” also borrows from The 1975 a bit with its shimmery, new wave-y guitar flourishes. Like “Internet Religion,” it tackles social media pressure to present yourself as a flawless model. Especially for young women like Baby Queen, the message hits home. This wouldn’t be the first time an artist has approached the topic (Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” comes to mind), Baby Queen is a bit more sardonic about the whole thing. Guilty of editing photos and basing self-worth on likes herself, it’s something of an anthem for anyone who constantly worries about their own authenticity online.
With her latest single “Want Me,” Baby Queen confesses a crush on Killing Eve star Jodie Comer (according to her Instagram promo of the song, anyway). The chorus here really takes off, showing a more carefree side of Latham. It’s reminiscent of the sugary pop punk of Sucker-era Charli XCX and, perhaps because isn’t as on theme as the rest of the EP, is a whole lot of fun. Even if it feels separate from the other tracks on the EP, it’s probably the strongest single of the bunch.
The last three tracks are more about mental health than life online. “Buzzkill” (love the name) is a solid rock track about hating parties that sounds like a Sleigh Bells b-side. Baby Queen’s personality really shines through on it, though it’s probably the least compelling track on the EP. The title track is explicitly about taking medication for depression and, even if you can’t relate, it contains a nice build and honest lyrics. “Online Dating” stands out as somewhat woozy and psychedelic, but it ties the themes of the EP together with a neat little bow.
Even though Baby Queen clearly likes to rely on her influences, the EP never feels like a copy of anyone else due to her confessional lyrical style. She’s tackling topics here that take less self-assured artists multiple records to do, with a clear stylistic direction. Her sarcastic, deadpan personality provides an outsider perspective that only someone like Billie Eilish has really been able to fulfill over the past few years. But Baby Queen isn’t Billie; she’s Baby Queen. She’s older, wiser, and more able to articulate complex critiques of society into easily consumable pop rock. As it stands, Medicine is by far one of the strongest debut EP’s this year and I cannot wait to see what she does next.