Photo Credit: Capitol Records
Up-and-coming international pop star Mabel McVey recently released her latest studio LP appropriately titled High Expectations. As a follow-up to this year’s Ivy To Roses mixtape, the 14-track disc is a compilation of well blended grooves, including 3 previously released singles: “Finders Keepers,” Cigarette” and her biggest hit record to date “Don’t Call Me Up,” which sat atop the top 10 singles U.K charts for 16 consecutive weeks. Though the album doesn’t give you a great deal of tracks with the same sultry caliber as the cheeky single, it does showcase an expansion of Mabel’s natural musical talents, due largely in part to her deeply rooted artistic bloodline.
Her dad is famed music producer Cameron McVey, and her Swedish-born mother is the daughter of a lead singer from a world-renowned jazz band. Her mother is also well a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist herself. Now at the tender age of 23, Mabel is heir to the family throne. And continues to find her niche, with her first full length LP which features some nice highs but also hits a few snags along the way.
For example, on the cute and irresistible sounding “Bad Behaviour”, which is poised to become a chart topper, she sings about not being a “people pleaser.” However, she is in fact doing exactly that with an appealing backdrop and radio pleasant vocals to match. In turn, she shows more promise on “FML” (F*ck my life). Another sassy pop-fueled breakup song that has a high replay factor if you’re going through one.
“OK” Anxiety Anthem” is truly the jewel of the album. The inspiring and uplifting tune serves as a perfect addition that will undoubtedly reach the masses as she touches on her own bouts with anxiety and depression: “’Cause it’s okay not to be okay. // It’s okay if you feel the pain. // Don’t gotta wipe your tears away. // Tomorrow’s another day. // It’s okay not to be okay. // It’s fine, you’re allowed to break. / As long as you know, as long as you know, everything’s gonna be okay.” It is moments such as these, when you see Mabel’s genuine authenticity come to life. Adding a bit of realness that your “every day” person can relate to, opposed to a well-oiled picture perfect pop star.
Unfortunately, you don’t get too much more of this except minimally on the alluring “Stockholm Syndrome”. With superb vocals, you see a slight touch of vulnerability as she dances around the passions and aggressions of a casual lover. Then as if going from boiling hot to a low simmer, things begin to get mediocre on tracks like “Put your name on it”, which though one of the better produced songs, it’s very basic lyrically. “We Don’t Say” is decent and somewhat relatable but just doesn’t have the same jazziness or contagious energy as say the popular “Don’t Call Me Up” or even the high energy “Finder’s Keepers”. Elsewhere, “Not Sayin” and “Trouble” both easily go unnoticed. Then on the lustful sounds of “Mad Love” she invites a potential lover to come “warm her up” so to speak, complete with a video featuring Mabel in a black pixie cut, leotards, and a set of background dancers with better moves than her. Which has conviction, but never really convincingly comes to life.
Hence, this is the main dilemma with High Expectations. It is not that Mabel makes bad music. She’s actually very gifted musically. And despite being stunning and likeable by nature, the problem is she comes off as trying a bit too hard at times. This is due to the fact that she is the genuinely nice girl, and there is nothing wrong with that per say. It’s actually endearing in a industry full of fake butt injections and hazel eyed Beyoncé wannabes. Unfortunately, she is trying too hard to convince us that she is a badass. As a result, it just ends up coming off as a girl trying too much to be something she’s not. She doesn’t have the sexy rebel confidence Rihanna gives you or the sweet teaser that is Ariana Grande. Mabel needs definition to be taken seriously in this industry. She is not intentional enough when she needs to be. As a result, creating a confusing dynamic in her music, where you either get a top 10 banger or a boring run-of-the-mill love song that is still sang well, but fails to bring anything out of you emotionally. Which is essentially what music is suppose to do. In short, once Mabel defines who she is realistically, everyone else will too! Lauryn Hill once said it best: “Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem.”