Out of all of the emerging acts in pop in 2019, the one person we’ve been the most excited about this year has been UK pop songstress Mabel. Born with pop star heritage in her blood, Britain’s rising star finally graced the world this August with her debut studio album, titled High Expectations, and we’re happy to report that it’s a pop masterpiece from top to bottom.
The album is aptly-named for one of UK’s most talked-about rising pop acts, given her lineage and fast rise to stardom. Born Mabel McVey, the 23-year-old is the daughter of Swedish singer-songwriter Neneh Cherry, whose 1988 song “Buffalo Stance” was a #1 US dance hit and peaked in the top 5 of the UK singles chart and Billboard Hot 100. Her dad, Cameron McVey, was also an established producer and writer in the ’80s and ’90s – so, yeah… High expectations.
Those expectations haven’t seemed to bog down Mabel, though, as she’s been able to channel her talent into becoming one of the brightest pop acts to burst on to the scene in recent memory. Coming off of 2018’s summer hit “Ring Ring” with Jax Jones, Mabel kicked off 2019 with what’s now the UK’s #1 best-selling single this year, “Don’t Call Me Up,” and its mood set the tone for the entire album.
With her self-assured lyrics and dancehall-tinged, rhythmic beats, Mabel’s pop brand becomes extremely clear when you hear her debut album and its various pieces: she’s that exotic, badass girl who hits hard and knows she’s “got it.”
There are hits like “Mad Love,” and “Bad Behaviour,” which keep that rhythmic identity under Mabel’s sultry voice and even steamier lyrics which position her as the one in the driver’s seat of her relationships. Add the new-but-underrated jam “Selfish Love,” and “Put Your Name On It” interspersed throughout the 20-song deluxe album, and the entire LP feels like it has a cohesive identity and theme.
The album isn’t exclusively full of dancehall-inspired rhythmic hits, though – Mabel is a versatile pop star, as she showcases in the second half of the High Expectations. Following “Mad Love,” McVey breaks out her emotional side with “Trouble,” and “OK (Anxiety Anthem),” both airy, self-aware ballads that prove she’s not invincible all of the time:
Yeah, I came looking for trouble / Yeah, I came looking for you
‘Cause I can’t get you out my head / I know instead, I should’ve stayed at home
Yeah, I came looking for trouble / And I get everything I need, do as I please
Living dangerously, living dangerously
There are days when the world gets heavy / Sleepless nights, I’ve had way too many
When it’s late and no one’s around, around / Alone in my room and the tears start pouring
Wishing the night was still the morning / But tonight, I’ma let them fall down, fall down
It’s okay if you feel the pain
Don’t gotta wipe your tears away
Tomorrow’s another day
Overall, for a debut full-length studio album, the body of work that McVey has put together is an extremely impressive debut. Between Mabel’s keen songwriting ability and production that grabs your attention at every turn, the album is one that can be listened through fluidly without much skipping.
Each song on High Expectations tells and important piece of her story, giving it that extra ability to connect with listeners on a relatable and personal level, which works in her favor over the long term. This album and its hits will help boost Mabel’s already significant fanbase, and sets her up to be at or near the very top of the pop food chain for the forseeable future. It’s Mabel’s world to take, and we’re lucky to be along for the ride.
Follow Mabel on Instagram: @mabel