Calling your debut ‘High Expectations’ is, let’s just say, a risky move. With platinum-selling singles, a sold-out night at Brixton Academy and a raft of other chart-stopping pop bangers to her name, for those that know Mabel, expectation surely is high.
But Mabel has rarely been one to shy away from making a statement. ‘Ivy To Roses’, a project she’s been building on over time, tackled the minefield that is dating with a candour that actually resonated with those it was aimed at. It helps that it was all coupled with grade-A hooks, but from ‘Low Key’ to ‘Finders Keepers’, this was the modern dating landscape many are experiencing. ‘High Expectations’ is much of the same, even if some of it doesn’t land quite as well as it could.
The opening salvo of ‘Bad Behaviour’, ‘Don’t Call Me Up’ and ‘FML’ is such a solid pop sugar rush that you’re almost lulled into thinking the rest of the album can keep up this quality. Sure, ‘Don’t Call Me Up’ takes more than a little inspiration from Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’, but it’s so brilliantly crafted that it almost doesn’t matter. A perfect pop gem if ever there was one.
After such a dizzying start, the album’s middle hits a serious lull, and it hits all the more harder because of that strong opening. Identikit tunes rear their head to spoil the party. It’s only pepped up by the excellent single ‘Mad Love’, which has one of those seriously catchy pre-choruses that is guaranteed to set any pre-drinks aflame.
By the time it reaches the latter stages, though, things are back on track. ‘OK (Anxiety Anthem)’, a frank song about realising your limitations when it comes to mental health and accepting that sometimes you might not feel OK all the time, steers away from becoming a maudlin ballad thanks to MNEK’s great production.
While ‘High Expectations’ doesn’t quite live up to its title, falling foul to a saggy middle run of tracks that sound more like B-sides, it shows Mabel still has an ear for an incredible hook.
There’s no faux-earnestness here. Whether Mabel is singing about messy break ups, mental health or empowering herself to move on, ‘High Expectations’ is effortlessly cool.