On a sell out UK tour, Mabel has made a strong case for her importance to young British music. Over a set comprising elements of soul, R&B, bubblegum, grime and hip-hop Mabel was absolutely magnetic.
Aussie thunderchild Ruel at the ripe age of 15(!) is more than prepared for warm-up duties. His soulful guitar-driven sound was a perfect foil to the main set. ‘Younger’ and ‘Dazed & Confused’ have the sheen this young crowd generally go for, but a little grit in the mix too. We’ve said it before, but he is one to watch with interest.
It should be mentioned this is probably the most up for it crowd we’ve seen all year. Also, the youngest. Kids as young as twelve or eleven can be seen straining to see from the balcony, and the DJ spinning between sits gets a rapturous response to the occasional blast of air horn samples. Lively doesn’t cover it, and we haven’t even got to nine o’clock yet.
Mabel takes to the stage wearing an off-the-shoulder puffa with matching cyber green eyeglasses. That’s probably the most downplayed element of the night. This is a set of maximalist pop – big hooks, big choruses, big cheers. As it should be. Opener ‘One Shot’ does as suggested and kills ’em in one. It’s perfect pop really but with a seam of R&B bounce.
The hits are here – ‘Finders & Keepers’ & the Jax Jones collab ‘Ring Ring’ make a strong case for their Radio 1 ever-presence. Yet the deeper cuts are just as good, if not even better. Early Soundcloud upload ‘Know Me Better’ pares back the thudding piano of the original and incorporates a new vocal snippet, a cocky male snarl, which gives the track an appealing kind of sleaze.
Mabel may not be the most socially aware or overtly political of the current crop of R&B singers and therefore perhaps not the most critically acclaimed. However she is a fantastic gateway into the wider genre, encasing bitter nuggets of wisdom and insight in a hard candy of commercial pop.
Along with Raye & Stefflon Don, Mabel is at the forefront of a generous wellspring that has sprung up between R&B, pop & grime. She’s a proven hit-maker and her future is hers to write.