“Honestly, Baby Queen saved my fucking life,” the musician declares over Zoom. Arabella Latham, better known by the moniker Baby Queen, originally developed the stage name as an alter ego, and it became her most significant courage-building exercise to date. “I feel like [Baby Queen] gave me the confidence to do things that I wanted to do. I’ve always rarely believed in myself,” she explains. “It’s really amazing when you can separate yourself from something, you can respect it more.”
Building this musical character, coupled with what she labels as “a delusional amount of belief”, encouraged her to pack a suitcase from her homeland of South Africa and head to the UK to kick-start a career in music. “My family were like, where’s this going? I had no money. I was quite literally stealing sandwiches from Tesco to be able to eat food,” she admits. However, her courage and determination to “make it” worked. She signed a record deal with Polydor from the backdrop of a global pandemic. “This thing that I always wanted, I ended up signing this major record deal over Zoom, literally like that. It was just a very surreal moment in time where I was like, am I dreaming?”
Latham went on to release her first EP, Medicine back in November 2020, followed by her debut mixtape, The Yearbook, in September 2021. Praised by industry critics and a growing number of faithful online followers that Latham dubs as The Baby Kingdom, the record’s success culminated in a support spot on fellow rising stars Olivia Rodrigo and Conan Grey’s respective tours.
I feel like [Baby Queen] gave me the confidence to do things that I wanted to do. I’ve always rarely believed in myself. It’s really amazing when you can separate yourself from something, you can respect it more.
Continuing her stratospheric rise, Latham even caught the attention of music legend Courtney Love who became her mentor, even making her a playlist of inspiring tracks. I can’t particularly say I know much about the role of a music mentor, but I know enough that when Courtney Love makes you a playlist, you listen to the fucking playlist. “I was like fuck, okay. Like, I’ll go listen to this,” Latham laughs modestly. Although always inspired by pop music, the playlist helped Latham fall even more in love with an alternative sound from bands including The Smashing Pumpkins. “I’ve recently gotten really into, you know, that era of the nineties and also kind of like scuzzy, beach rock. I’ve really gotten into grunge.”
In 2022, Baby Queen quickly became a household name due to her involvement in Netflix’s record-breaking series, Heartstopper. “You know, the author of [Heartstopper] had found my music and it was this really, really natural thing that happened and I feel so proud,” she beams. Latham was invited to watch the first three episodes of the show ahead of its release to confirm her involvement in the series’s tracklist. “I literally had no idea what I was walking into,” she revealed. The show’s unprecedented depictions of young, queer love compelled her to soundtrack the deeply moving story: “We never had anything like this. We never had anything that was so global, so big, so mainstream for such a young queer audience, I was like, this is incredible. And it’s just everything that I want to align myself with.”
We never had anything that was so global, so big, so mainstream for such a young queer audience, I was like, this is incredible. And it’s just everything that I want to align myself with.
Baby Queen on Heartstopper
Latham has not shied away from sharing her own experiences as a young, queer person publicly, previously declaring that she does not define her sexuality due to experiencing stigma towards her sexual ambiguity growing up in South Africa, a place where queer identities are still not widely recognised. “I’m not someone that screams about things, you know. Maybe I should scream about things a bit more,” she tells me. “But I feel like I’m really honest in my music and it [Heartstopper] was a very clear, perfect home for the person that I am and the music that I write.” Her track ‘Colours of You’ was later released especially for the series and her song Want Me was featured in the opening scene of the first episode.
JUMPER: LAZYOAF | NECKLACES: A SINNER IN PEARLS
Latham’s resilience, coupled with her raw honesty and ability to declare her vulnerabilities throughout her songwriting, has made Baby Queen one of the most exciting rising stars from the past year. “If you can’t make something beautiful from pain. Then, you’re just left with pain,” Baby Queen told her crowd during a one-off special show at London’s Heaven back in November. It’s something that’s clearly inspired her writing process. Upon asking what lyric she’s most proud of writing, she answers with the opening verse of her track ‘I’m a Mess’, a tale of obsessive thoughts, the curse of comparison and a pursuit of perfection.
“I know that pain can take me places that love has never been / I know the company I keep is just a reflection of me / I know instead of getting wasted, I should be getting clean / Cause when I tried to drown my sorrows, the fuckers learned to breathe underwater / Second daughter syndrome is a real thing, and I am permanently paralyzed by everything I think, I think / I think myself to death, I’d like to rewire my head / I’d like to be more like my sister because she can make her bed,” she poetically recites to me through spoken word.
She continues to explain how she wishes she could live a normal life, being someone who can “actually get their shit together” and comparing herself to her sibling: “I’ve always seen my sister as a normal person. Just someone that can just live a normal life because they’re fine. And then I’ve always been just not really fine, just a bit fucked up.”
These anxious thoughts and experiences have also led her to begin writing a book that she assures may or may not ever see the light of day. The book has been provisionally titled The Philosophy of Sadness and is inspired by how she couldn’t understand why people like her sister were so happy, while she was so intrinsically sad. “I started learning about all these studies done by Harvard University about a group of young boys in New York from a really privileged school and a group of young boys from an underprivileged school. And they were like 10 years old when they started. And the interviews went in every month and interviewed like this pool of kids for their whole lives. The study’s been going on for 70 years trying to figure out what they think happiness is.”
Between journaling, songwriting, recording and touring, Latham admits she’s a self-confessed workaholic. This may be an unlikely insight for a musician whose latest release was titled ‘Lazy’ – a refreshing, anti-‘girl boss’ slacker anthem that’s more self-deprecating than pro-productivity. “It’s a weird song for me to put out because I won’t stop working,” she highlights. “But I do wake up late… I don’t want to do anything. I only do things because I have to by choice. No matter how busy you are, no matter what you do, you’re always procrastinating shit. You can still sometimes leave shit to like two weeks later.”
Nevertheless, this is only the beginning for Baby Queen. While 2023 is tipped to be another monumental year for the singer-songwriter, she’s planning on caring for herself as a priority. “It’s gonna be a really good year but when you’re starting out as a musician, you do every festival, you do everything! You work yourself fucking dry. I want to be more selective,” she says sternly. On top of that, working on her personal relationships is another priority: “My life is so fucking one-dimensional, I don’t have friends outside my team, I need to make friends.” She may want to slow down and be lazy, but – spoken like a true workaholic – she smiles defiantly, “I want to go to the Grammys. I want to do all this crazy shit.” Whether she sees it in herself or not, Baby Queen does, indeed, have her shit together.
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