A debut full of future anthems, and glimpses of the personal beneath the polished pop…

Mabel has been bubbling away under the surface of the UK scene for the past couple of years, with her knack for platinum selling singles (which isn’t so easy) and showing early promise with her ‘Ivy to Roses’ mixtape. But whether she can stay consistent through an album is another test, lending the title of ‘High Expectations’ a deeper meaning.

Hit single ‘Don’t Call Me Up’ has been riding high for weeks now, and has (intentionally or otherwise) seen the singer likened to Dua Lipa, another British pop artist who’s successfully broken through in America.  Undoubtedly, this album will produce more anthems, such as the personal ‘OK (Anxiety Anthem)’ – “Wake up with a knot in my chest, tried everything to get out of bed, it ain’t working” – which Mabel has described as her most challenging track to write.

‘Selfish Love’ featuring Kamille, an up and coming UK artist, is perhaps another that sounds like it will top the charts, with easy sing-along lines and poppy electronics.

Whilst most tracks on the album are Spotify playlist and radio friendly, ‘FML‘ isn’t so much. A chorus that’s hard on the ears, including the refrain “Fuck my life”, makes the whole song feel a little over the top.

There are instances on the album when Mabel shows a different side to her work. ‘Stckholme Syndrome (Interlude)’ is a track that comes without auto tune, replaced instead with more of a hazy induced R&B inspired feel. It strays away, successfully, from the multi genre-blended vibe the rest of the album evokes, perhaps qualifying its categorisation as an “interlude”.

None of these songs fall too low below par. But sometimes they feel almost too airbrushed, with Mabel playing it a little too safe to qualify being described as wholly original or progressive. There are moments of talent and flair, but it would’ve also been refreshing to hear more personality (and less autotune). Nevertheless, it’s an album that contains some real highlights.

7/10

Words: Joe Hale

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