Quarter Life Crisis (Deluxe)

Quarter Life Crisis (Deluxe)

Ask Baby Queen to sum up the process of making her debut album, and the South Africa-born, London-living singer-songwriter replies with typical frankness. “It was the worst time of my life,” she deadpans to Apple Music. “It was so, so stressful. You just want to move through that experience with confidence. But I thought I was shit the whole time.” However, arriving after 2021’s star-signaling mixtape The Yearbook, a moving set of tracks written for TV series Heartstopper (included on this deluxe version of the record), and a support slot on tour with Olivia Rodrigo in 2022, Quarter Life Crisis betrays none of that self-doubt. Instead, this sounds like Baby Queen (real name Arabella Latham) at her most assured yet, as she hones her upfront alt-pop—which here ranges from expansive, frequently dreamy, synth-led moments to brash, pop-punk-powered anthems—and thrillingly uncompromising lyricism. Her most courageous and confident move here? Often dropping the winking wit that has powered so many of her songs in favor of something even more arrestingly honest. “More so than ever on this album, I’ve stopped using humor to mask what I actually feel,” she says. “I’ve taken it away and actually dealt with the thing face on.” See the raw “Obvious,” for example, a heartbreaking exploration of what you lose when you leave home to follow your dreams. But despite its creator’s “existential” tendencies, Quarter Life Crisis is also an embrace of hope, as Baby Queen navigates its central theme: the gray area of your mid-twenties when you’re technically an adult but feel anything but grown-up. “I became really obsessed with the idea of innocence and experience, and immaturity and maturity, and that you become tainted by the life you’ve lived, but you still very much feel like a child,” she says. “It was this tumultuous period of time where I’m dealing with every facet of what it feels like to be in your twenties. It was introspective—but hopeful as well. Life is horrible, chaotic, heartbreaking, but also beautiful, incredible. You can see those things living in the music.” Here, Baby Queen offers her in-depth guide to her compelling debut. Or, as she puts it, “I put myself through hell for this, so we may as well fucking talk about it.” “We Can Be Anything” “I had a completely different song and the lyric ‘We can be anything/That’s awesome, don’t you think?’ was the outro. I realized that was the best bit of the whole song so I scrapped the rest and made it the chorus. I was trying to understand those lines and what they meant to me—it just felt so powerful. I have always been incredibly existential, but this is, I guess, a way of telling the listener how I have gone from thinking there’s no fucking point to allowing that same fact to liberate me and give me freedom to make of my life what I want to. I wanted the album to start hopefully, and I wanted it to end hopefully too.” “kid genius” “A very bratty little number. I came up with the line ‘It’s all so tedious when you are a kid genius.’ It was a very frustrating time for me—I feel like I’ve worked my whole life to be a musician, but everyone was signing these TikTokers who had made one single. The artistic wealth and depth and intelligence just didn’t feel like it mattered. I was probably just sour and jealous, but this song was cathartic for me. It’s got full-on Baby Queen swagger.” “Dream Girl” “I’m incredibly proud of this, lyrically. When I wrote it, I was staying in this little Victorian house by the beach and was obsessed with this girl who had a boyfriend—and, by proxy, I became obsessed with the boyfriend. The first verse is very much about him and you would think it’s a song about a guy, and then there’s this pivotal shift when it gets to the chorus. By the second verse, it’s very obvious that I’m only obsessed with him because he’s with her. As someone who is bisexual, it’s an interesting song because you can feel the bisexuality in the lyricism, which is really fun. It’s asking to be a big song, but at the same time it’s quite a tender sentiment. It’s actually quite heartbreaking if you read the lyrics without the music there.” “i can’t get my shit together” “I love switching between different voices. Here, it’s this very childish voice and I really enjoy falling into that pocket. It’s nice to use it as a tool. The whole point of this song is the juxtaposition. Visually, I was imagining walking around with your friends and everything’s great and stunning, and you walk into your house and you open your cupboard, and all this shit just falls on you and you’re lying underneath. It was a really fun and easy song to write, a breath of fresh air.” “Love Killer” “A lot of this album is about being lonely. I see people in my life who have their person and I’m quite bitter about it. During that time, I was incredibly cynical about love. Some of my very favorite lyrics are in this song—I felt proud of the wit in this song.” “Grow Up” “This feels like a sonic shift. [The album] starts: bang, bang, bang, bang, then ’Grow Up’ is getting a bit more of the actual emotion underneath some of the themes. When I was writing this, I went, ‘If I could grow up, I would grow the fuck up’ and got a shiver down my spine. It’s such a rare feeling—to know that you’ve spiked something. It was very obvious what that song was about. I’ve always felt like somehow I’m just unable to step into responsibility or to function like a normal human being. When this song came into the fold, it became a really defining characteristic of this album. I think it’s how the album ended up getting to a place where it was called Quarter Life Crisis—it was very foundational. It’s raw and it’s one of the top three emotional ones for me.” “Quarter Life Crisis” “The album was called Kid Genius for a really long time. I was so obsessed with that phrase. Then my mom was like, ‘But you’re not a kid, and who even knows if you’re a genius?’ Then I had a conversation with my cousin’s girlfriend about the album and how I was feeling, and she said, ‘I think you’re having a quarter-life crisis.’ And I immediately felt like I’d been gagging to find that phrase. Lyrically, it feels like one of the simplest songs. And I could not believe how many words rhyme with crisis. When I said, ‘like some fuckin’ hybrid’ I winded myself. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Wow, you’re something else.’” “Die Alone” “I never, ever feel nervous about people hearing my music and it being too personal. I’m always trying to push honesty so that it’s even more shocking to the listener. But there’s always a wink to the camera. The lyrics for this one were like Tetris—it was a tough one. But what I really love about the song is the vocal layering towards the end and the spoken-word, almost-rap bit. And I love where the song goes and the journey of [it]. When we produced it, we brought it way down, and right up on the mic. It really exposes me. I’m very proud of it.” “Obvious” “An absolutely devastating song to write. This is the one song on the album that I 100 percent wrote every note of. I think it had to be that way. Every time I sat down to work on it, I couldn’t stop crying. I’d been holding onto these feelings of guilt for leaving home [in South Africa]. When I moved to London, it was such a whirlwind, especially when Baby Queen started taking off. You just don’t stop to think or look backwards, and this felt like dealing with the grief of what I had lost. I hadn’t been back to South Africa or seen my dad for five years. I felt so guilty. My house was sold; I didn’t have a bedroom anymore. Everything was gone. I wondered about putting this on the album—it feels too Bella and not enough Baby Queen. But ultimately I decided it gave more context to the story I’m trying to tell.” “23” “‘Obvious’ ends on ‘One day you’ll wake up and be 23,’ and then this starts playing. I was very excited about that! It brings us out of ‘Obvious’ in quite a good way. I’m unpacking my sexuality and my inability to come to terms with it. I wrote it after a night out in London and there was a really pretty girl. It’s almost a conversation I’m having with myself. This is just the way I feel, it’s fundamentally who I am, I can’t turn my back on it. After this song, I basically just want to make rap albums now.” “every time i get high” “This song was written before [debut single] ‘Internet Religion.’ I wrote it when I first started smoking weed. I feel like getting stoned has been literally my whole twenties. There is the existentialism in there, I would lie on my bed and be like, ‘What’s the point of life?’ Lyrically it’s a really powerful song, and psychedelic rock is one of my favorite genres—it’s one of my dad’s favorite genres, and I listened to it a lot growing up. This is going to be really fun live.” “a letter to myself at 17” “I had this idea of writing a letter to my younger self. It became me telling the story of what I’ve gone through by telling it back to myself. I knew it was going to close the album when I came up with the last lyric, which was ‘Try to be happy. You might be if only you knew that your wildest dreams came true.’ Again, we start with hope and we end with this hopeful, happy thing.” Bonus Tracks: “video games” and “u suck!” “I don’t really like the idea of bonus tracks—I kind of hate it, actually. But I guess you’re just trying to give your fans something extra. With ‘u suck!’ It was like, ‘I fuck with this song!’ I like it. It’s really cool. And ‘video games’ was meant to be a full song. Maybe I’m going to flesh it out in the future and make into a full song. But I know that the fans had heard that snippet before and I just really wanted to put it on the album.” Deluxe Edition Tracks “These are eight songs that had been on Heartstopper. That was a moment where Baby Queen really started to be discovered on a big level. I think that was a lot of people’s introduction to me as an artist. It felt really important to bring that into the conversation of the first album because I really want people to go back and uncover the rest of the discography. I think a debut album is your introduction. It’s you saying, ‘This is who I am as an artist’ and inviting people into your world. But I do think that these songs here are as much who I am as an artist as the songs on this album.”

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