Friday, October 07, 2022

Shygirl explores sex, love and the emotions in between on debut album ‘Nymph’

London rapper/singer/all-around pop-girl Shygirl has been turning heads in the alternative pop and dance scenes over the past few years. Her track ‘BB’, which samples The Spice Girls, blew up among fans of the likes of Charli XCX and Caroline Polachek

The momentum didn’t stop as the songstress went on to release her second EP ‘Alias’ to critical acclaim. Working closely with ground-breaking producers like Sega Bodega, as well as Arca and SOPHIE, the singer gained an underground notoriety and a huge queer fanbase. 

All of this has meant Shygirl has built a reputation as the queen of brash, bawdy and sexual lyrics which would even shock Madonna. But with the anticipated release of her first real album, ‘Nymph’, the singer has not merely reproduced the sounds of ‘Alias’ but has revealed her broader lyrical ability to touch on more subtle, sensitive subjects.

At a string of performances across the UK in 2022 for a long-delayed tour, Shygirl debuted the performance of the new track ‘Firefly’. Introduced as a song about love and heartache, this was not familiar territory nor what fans might have expected. But it’s poignant lyrics and Shygirl’s strong vocal performance proved her range. ‘Heaven’ continues this vibe: a trap and PC Music inspired love letter, Shygirl trades promiscuity for commitment as she pines “I just wanna/ Make it up to you/ Never leave your side”. Even on tracks which are perhaps less emotionally intimate, Shygirl has experimented with her instrumentation. This is evident on ‘Honey’ and ‘Wildfire’ , which offer a more subtle approach to her craft. Working with the likes of Mura Masa and Vegyn on this record, the singer has chosen to give her producers breathing space to create work which is undeniably them, but on these moments of the record, Shygirl employs a new, softer style to match the lo-fi elements.

Despite the vulnerability and beauty of tracks like ‘Firefly’, the new record is not void of the sexiness which has come to dominate Shygirl’s discography, as she has been recently hailed “pop’s new high priestess of smut”. Certainly, the release of the NSFW music video for track ‘Shlut’ propels Shygirl’s reign as the queen of pop bad girls. The production choice on certain tracks maintains this bad girl image – particularly the iconic abrasive production style of Arca on ‘Come for me’Danny L Harle’s production, particularly in the driving beats of ‘Poison’ sets the pace, and allows Shygirl to express her ’baddest’ self. 

Shygirl’s London influences and particularly her use of London slang have always been central to much of her work – think of tracks such as ‘Leng’ or her junglist remix of the track ‘Beaut’. And new track ‘Nike’ is a perfect example of this continuation. The references to Nike in the first instance ground the lyrics in street culture, and Shygirl goes on to employ London slang singing “Hands on my breast and my batty like he knew it”. The fact that Shygirl is so embedded in this Black British culture is perhaps what makes her stand out among her peers across pop and electronica, which have often been dominated by white American cultures.

The tracks are not without their humour either. ‘Coochie (a bedtime story)’ sounds sweet and subtle but is anything but with smutty, playful, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. And with Shygirl’s promise to deliver a ‘bisexual anthem’, the track does not disappoint on that front, as a song wholly dedicated to women: “All night, every day/ Anytime that coochie calls, I'll be on my way”.

The flow and delivery of the record shows an artist that has grown in both depth and confidence – an artist with the ability to make banging singles, to match the energy of Slowthai but equally to create more full-bodied musical projects.

Annie Hackett


Image: ‘Nymph’ Official Album Cover

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