Of course many had had high expectations for Mabel’s debut album, High Expectations – and the British R’n’B newcomer certainly delivered.
While her huge pop single Don’t Call Me Up from earlier this year warrants its popularity with its thick, Afro-Caribbean tones and deep, dub-house beat, it’s arguably surpassed by a few other tracks. Follow-up song FML is stylistically similar, with watery keyboard chords and rigid stick rhythms, but it pops more because her voice is powerfully strained in the choruses. Trouble has vocal hooks so naturally fluid that it’s almost overwhelming in its appeal.
Vocally, Mabel doesn’t stand out much from the rest of the R’n’B crowd, with Mad Love resorting to heavy repetition to hammer home a chorus, but OK (Anxiety Anthem) allows her to flex her lyrical potential with verses like, “Look at you, look at me/We all going through it if you look beyond the surface/So what do I do?/Just wear it on my sleeve/Maybe then you’d believe that I’m hurting”.
The album in general could be more concise and, at 14 tracks, High Expectations can feel a little like reggaeton overkill. While the title track intro and outro’s hint to complex, mature string arrangements that never play out in the remaining songs, pop fans will be satisfied with Mabel’s consistent output, even if interludes Lucky and Stckhlm Syndrome are far from complete.