Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Baby Queen – Raw Thoughts

A South African newcomer has something on her mind…


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Thomas Inskeep: Combine Lorde’s voice and lyrics with the pop-rock sensibility of Miley Cyrus, add a big tablespoon of delightful vulgarity, and you’ll get something akin to “Raw Thoughts.” This is exciting pop music, and Baby Queen sounds like a soon-to-be star.
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Samson Savill de Jong: I’m all in on this. Baby Queen is starting to get a simmering amount of hype but she deserves a lot more on the basis of this. Lyrics that flow straight from her brain to yours, music that builds and intertwines and lifts in a chaotic way that’s never out of control. A song that you can put on as a danceworthy banger that has plenty of depth that you can sit and vibe with. Every decision is the right one here, and the result is completely brilliant.
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Scott Mildenhall: Baby Queen’s widely unheralded string of singles last year — including the sugar-coated obsession of “Want Me” and the enthrallingly ambivalent “Internet Religion” — were almost too good to be true for a new act. Whether or not 2021 is to be the year of her rightful Big Push, it has at least begun with her consistency intact. “Raw Thoughts” brims with ideas, thoughts and feelings, verbal facility at pace with them all in permanent overdrive. The bolder choices, lyrical and musical, never feel like showing off, because they’re always cohesive: considered and understood. Overall it does suffer for having less to say on the way to its crescendo than some of the earlier singles, but it’s still a dazzling journey, and, regardless, they can always be re-released.
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Aaron Bergstrom: “Pseudoantonyms” are words that have similar meanings despite giving the impression of being opposites — flammable/inflammable and valuable/invaluable are the classic examples. This is the only linguistic explanation I can come up with for why Baby Queen incessantly refers to her music as “anti-pop.” She talks about how she grew up loving Fleetwood Mac and Taylor Swift. She is obviously influenced by Lorde and The 1975. “Raw Thoughts” is pretty much the platonic ideal of pop in 2021, in that it’s a song about sex, drugs, and partying that still somehow manages to be depressing. This isn’t meant as a criticism. Baby Queen makes interesting, nuanced pop music. Why run from that? What could that “anti-” possibly be referring to here? Not everything has to be transgressive.
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Katherine St Asaph: Now there’s a fucking payoff to the chorus. Unlike countless “dark-pop” artists before her — and, yes, sorry, also Julien Baker — Baby Queen and her producer King Ed understand the basic concept that if your song is about getting fucked up and going too far, your instrumental should sound like getting fucked up and going too far. If your song is called “Raw Thoughts,” it should contain some raw thoughts, though also acceptable is a polished-perfect line like “I’m thinking about you, and you’re thinking about sex” — perfect for shouting loud without totally thinking through the particulars of what you’re saying vs. your own situation, because the feelings align, damn it. (She also understands that actual “raw thoughts,” once they make it through the brain and its narration and filters, often read like “always keep raw thoughts close when you get fucked up and you’re going back home,” which is exactly the kind of pseudo-profound, two-layers-away-from-the-root-feeling koan somebody would write in their phone notes while drunk at 3 a.m.) Adding an actual bridge that churns and swells, as well a shout-along coda for that polished-perfect line: all basic songwriting-101 stuff that shouldn’t need pointing out, and yet. “Raw Thoughts” isn’t perfect; there’s a little too much post-Lorde stalling at the beginning, and the lyric could sharpen its emotional shiv even more. But I recognize a great pop song when I hear one.
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Alfred Soto: Is “Raw Thoughts” a giant hook? Yes. Does it slap? Surely. Instead of mumbling its miseries, “Raw Thoughts” honors its title: sleazy, awkward, sometimes worth turning away from. 
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Frank Falisi: We say “the song is stuck in my head” and we say “the sand is stuck in my shoe” and I think the relative value judgements of these positions are different but the friction produced is the important part, the erosive way the present object (sound, sand) might shave the tiniest shred of your surface off and leaves your inside stuff just a little exposed. 
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Vikram Joseph: Unless you’re in the Antipodes or a few other lucky spots, chaotic nights with your friends are a pleasure that’s being held forever out of reach at the moment, and so there’s an illicit thrill in being privy to the intense highs and lows of Baby Queen’s hedonistic adventures. The Margate-filmed video has some excellent low-budget arthouse aesthetics, all windswept promenades and abandoned arcades, and the gnawing hook breaks into a great frothy synth-pop wave of a chorus, reminiscent of Tove Lo and Sigrid’s effervescent Scandi-pop. While Beth Latham’s lyrics can be bracingly direct, she can also sound unusually juvenile — “They say I’m unhinged and I don’t give a shit/They’ll never get it unless they sat under my skin,” is something you might expect to find scrawled in the back of a Year 9 workbook. But there’s charm, energy and songcraft here, so let’s hope the words follow.
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Reader average: [9.33] (3 votes)

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