How NOT to write about music – 102. Mabel


Can’t keep up.

Love it when I can’t keep up.

I’ve never been able to keep up. I have always been overwhelmed by the volume of alternatives available within my own limited spheres of music. I don’t even listen much to anything outside of pop music these days (define that how you like) and I still can’t keep up. No, it ain’t my age. No, it ain’t my distance. I have a distinct gender bias to the music I listen to, have had for years now – and I still can’t keep up. My sources, my connections, are frayed and splitting at the ends but still I can’t keep up. Sure, I no longer am paid to listen – but honestly? You reckon that was ever the motivating factor? People like to argue among themselves which was the best year for music. Is it 2019? they ask themselves. Is it 2018? Will it be 2020? Most certainly. The bewilderment, the profusion of riches and charm and seduction grows with each passing month, as does the backlog. I am continually surprised, seduced, captivated by music new to me – the most intoxicating drug of all, it lifts you to a far greater high than alcohol or friendship or heroin. Not that I’d know – right? That new Taylor Swift single, OMFG! Like Taylor Swift with some Miley, some Mazzy, some Lana Del Rey rolled in. Who doesn’t love music like this? I cannot keep being fixated on the same thousand or so artists though. (Why not?) These years, I have to Google to discover whether I’ve even written about someone or not.

Mabel. I haven’t written about Mabel yet. Johnson fuck, what am I thinking? Here she is. Quick! Better than ANYTHING I’ve heard before. No, really. I hear so many harmonies, so many echoes, so many anxieties, so many possibilities, so many futures and pasts, futures and pasts in her music. Mainstream shit, right? Man alive. Just the odd 120 million listeners or so ahead of me.

How NOT to write about music – 81. Sir Babygirl


OK. Three reasons why you should never reduce music criticism to simple box ticking, process and naming delineation. The closer something seems to get to you, the more it will squirm away. Do not be reductionist or give in to the temptation to place everything into neatly labelled boxes: embrace the confusion, embrace the distraction. If something can be that easily categorised in the first place, that says more about you as the listener, as the consumer, then it will ever do about the artist. The title of this music blog is How NOT to write about music, remember?

Herein follows the first lesson.

This is what the music/muse of Sir Babygirl sounds and looks like:

  1. Like a cross between the musical box scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chicago, The Powerpuff Girls and The Craft.
  2. Like a cross between Kate Nash, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Grimes, Billie Eilish, Fall Out Boy and Hannah Diamond.
  3. Just a great pop song from a non-binary drag character (her words, not mine).

Do you understand what I am saying here? Never give in to the temptation to simplify. Never allow yourself to be seduced by the idea you know more than the next person. You almost certainly don’t and even if you do, their turn of phrase is probably more eloquent and appealing than yours. You CANNOT get a sense of Sir Babygirl’s beautiful, buoyant, challenging pop music from the above points. And you couldn’t, even if they were relevant.

All I am doing here is pointing out the process. Most music journalism hides the process (a little) better than this. Whatever. Have yourself a listen anyway. Don’t be distracted.

This next one is kinda way better cos it’s way more irritating (NOT an insult).

Someone on YouTube described it as “like the Bisexual acid trip version of ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease which is probably even more asinine and incomplete a description then even those crap one-liners above, but it”s funnier and anyway, what you gonna do? In a world where Boris Johnson is accepted for his perceived “charm” over any more obvious abilities you gotta run against the crowd.