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‘High Expectations’ is the beginning for Mabel

After climbing the charts, the singer’s first album is here
Aug 02,2019
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[BYUN JU-YEON]
Some songs get stuck in your head after just a single listen. It may be the lyrics or it may be the melody, but in the case of pop singer Mabel’s songs, it’s usually both.

The 23-year-old singer-songwriter made her debut in 2015 with her single “Know Me Better,” and rose to stardom with “Finders Keepers,” a song that made the top 10 of U.K.’s Official Singles Chart. “Finders Keepers” peaked at No. 8 on the Official Singles Chart on Aug. 8, 2017, an achievement she beat two years later with “Don’t Call Me Up,” which landed at No. 3 on the singles chart on Jan. 31 this year. Just two years since her first big hit, Mabel has three tracks that made it to the Official Charts’ Top 10 list, five on the Top 40 list and seven on the Top 75 list.

With all of these achievements, it may be surprising for some to know that “High Expectations,” her 14-track album that comes out today, is actually her debut album. The release is a compilation of her past hits, such as “Don’t Call Me Up,” as well as fresh songs like “Mad Love,” a track she dropped in June.

“I can’t wait for people to hear it,” Mabel said. “It was maybe a two-year process from beginning to end, and I’m just very proud of the result now. I can’t wait to hear what people think.”

As the daughter of Swedish singer Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack record producer Cameron McVey, Mabel grew up surrounded by music. For her, music is not just her career, but the way she processes the world and communicates with the people around her. She hopes that “High Expectations” is just the beginning of a story that she will be telling the world for years to come.

Mabel met with the Korea JoongAng Daily when she traveled to Korea for the first time in mid-July prior to the album’s release to talk about her music, life and goals. The following are edited excerpts of the interview.



Q. “High Expectations” is your first full-length album. How does it feel to have your first album out?

A
. It feels amazing. I’m an album person. That’s how I listen to music. I like to listen to somebody’s project from beginning to end, and finally making my own, you know, is just really exciting.

Albums [are different from] mixtapes and EPs because [it’s] more just like putting a collection of songs on a project. In the process with mixtapes, you don’t really have to think about it too much. It’s more like a collection of short stories. Whereas [with] an album, I think I should tell one story more and be cohesive, and all the songs need to flow into each other in a different way. That was a very interesting process in figuring out what story I wanted to tell and how I wanted to tell it. All the little musical things, like the interludes, the track list order and stuff like that, was really fun and different.



So what story did you want to tell with “High Expectations”?

I looked at that from every angle - the expectations of myself, my expectations of other people, especially in relationships, and then because of what I do, about what people expected of me as well. I would say in general, the message is about confidence.

It was a confidence-building experience for me. I liked quite a lot of it growing up, and I’ve come out on the other side of making the album. I’m more confident than ever. So to me, it was really important to make something that makes people feel good about themselves, and that was the message that I wanted to tell - about sort of finding my voice and finding my confidence.



Is that a similar message to what you wanted to say in “Don’t Call Me Up”?

I wanted to write a positive breakup song. I think it’s easy to look at the negatives in those situations. Breakups suck, but things happen for a reason. So at the time when I wrote it, I think I was still feeling quite low about the situation. I was like, “I want to write a song that’s going to make me feel better and more positive about it.” Because having been through breakups before, [I know that] even though I care a lot right now, in six months I probably won’t. I’ll be looking at my phone, and I’m going to be like, “why is he calling me?”



Other than writing your own songs, did you get involved in the other art related to your album such as the album cover and your costumes?

Yeah, for sure. The album covers, the costumes, all the styling [and] the creative [elements] - everything is obviously me. It’s not just like, “oh, a job.” That’s my life. So it’s important that everything is something that I feel 100 percent happy with. I would never put anything out that I don’t love or doesn’t make me feel good.

It’s also a very visual world that we live in now, and as a musician, I think you do have to have that vision figured out because it’s not just the music. It’s your videos and your visuals in general. It was important to me to sort of get that message across as a whole.



Who influenced you as a child to become an artist yourself?

Growing up, I was listening to mainly music by women like Destiny’s Child, Beyonce obviously, Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah, and Missy Elliott.

All those people were very influential to me, and I think because I grew up listening to that music, it was very empowering. I definitely had in mind when I started writing music that I want to have that message and make young women feel powerful too.



And now, being in a position where people listen to you, how do you feel?

It feels amazing. It’s so crazy because I think about the people who made me feel that kind of way when I was younger, and then I get messages from young girls all the time. It feels incredible and also humbling to feel like people trust me and they want to talk to me - that’s, like, all I’ve ever dreamed of.



Looking back a few years to your first mixtape, would you say you have grown?

Everybody changes. Whether you’re an artist or a person, growth is important. I have changed both as a person and an artist, and I definitely feel stronger than ever now. I think [when] making an album, you definitely have to look at yourself under a magnifying glass. It’s a self-exploration process, and I feel like I’ve come out on the other side. I’m okay with all the good bits and all the bad bits, and that’s made me stronger as a human.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]