When Baby Queen thinks of her time on tour with Olivia Rodrigo, Pikachu comes to mind. During the European leg of Rodrigo’s Sour tour in June and July, they bonded over custom leather jackets and Pokémon. So when the tour wrapped last month, Rodrigo knew the perfect gift for her fellow singer-songwriter: a small glass Pikachu figurine.
“Oh my God, this is the craziest gift I've ever received,” Baby Queen remembers telling her. “I'm too scared to touch it.” Gaming, and gaming tchotchkes, are of high importance to Baby Queen — so much so that she’s working on a song titled “Video Games” for her highly anticipated debut album.
If you don’t know Baby Queen, you’re about to. The South African-born singer, whose real name is Arabella Latham, burst onto the scene with her angsty mixtape The Yearbook last year and several dreamy songs in Netflix’s hit gay rom-com series, Heartstopper.
If Olivia Rodrigo is the SoCal Gen Z singer-songwriter venting about teen life in the suburbs, then Baby Queen is her 20-something London rocker counterpart: a little more new wave, a little edgier, and with dreams as big as Big Ben. Baby Queen’s music is perfect for your main character bridge-and-tunnel ride into the big city (think: Dido to Olivia Rodrigo’s Avril Lavigne).
It’s not surprising, then, that the two rising artists got along well on tour. “[Olivia is] literally just the sweetest person in the world,” Baby Queen says. The tour was more than an extended hangout session, though. It wasn’t until this year that Baby Queen performed her songs live, first on a solo headlining tour across the U.K. in April, then as an opener for Rodrigo. “With that insight into what I feel like Baby Queen is, as a live show, I think this album's going to be the best thing ever to play live,” she says.
As a child, Baby Queen was a creative-minded artist growing up in a musical household. She started playing her family’s detuned upright piano when she was 10 and credits Taylor Swift with changing her future. “I saw Taylor Swift as somebody like me that had just written little songs and was then performing them on these big stages, and I just thought, ‘That could be me,’” she says.
To make her dreams come true, Baby Queen moved to London in 2014, but it wasn’t until the lockdown in 2020 that she stopped working behind the counter at the iconic Rough Trade Records store and secured her record deal over Zoom. She released her debut EP Medicine that year and dropped her mixtape, The Yearbook, in 2021.
Her career exploded after several of her songs were featured in Heartstopper in April. “It’s been, honestly, the most amazing thing that's ever happened to me in my whole life,” she says. Case in point: She now has over 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Baby Queen recorded a new song, “Colours of You,” for the show. In the song, she lists the colors of the Pride flag (among others): “Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, and indigo too.” She swears the rainbow motif was completely unintentional while she was writing the song and only realized it after finishing the lyrics. In fact, having her song feature in a queer TV show was far more than just a career high. “As someone who is bisexual, I feel like I've experienced so much of the same confusion [as the show’s characters],” she says. “It's a really broad, all-encompassing story, and I feel like so many kids can watch it and feel like they see themselves in the show, which we never had.”
Now with a little cache thanks to Heartstopper and opening for Rodrigo, Baby Queen is focused on her debut album. About her unreleased song, “Video Games,” don’t go comparing it to Lana Del Rey’s breakout hit. “I honestly don't think Lana Del Rey's ever played a video game her entire life,” Baby Queen says, laughing.
Initially, she worked on an upbeat pop album following The Yearbook’s release. “I f*cking hate this,” she realized shortly after. So now Baby Queen is modeling her album around the gritty sound of “Buzzkill,” which was featured on her Medicine EP. This means finding inspiration in ’90s alt-rock bands, like The Smashing Pumpkins.
That said, Baby Queen isn’t interested in being a references queen. “You realize that you can't mimic or imitate someone,” she says. “You're going to have to naturally find your own space as a creator.”
When she’s not songwriting, the “Raw Thoughts” singer has lately found herself interested in everything but Baby Queen. “I've started to really take this notion seriously, because I think you can get really wrapped up in one thing and your life can become quite one-dimensional,” she says. So she’s picked up a few hobbies. She’s using a stone identifier app to learn about geology and jokes about becoming a stone hunter. She’s also realizing music isn’t her only artistic endeavor. She writes poetry and has dreams of acting, too.
Her latest hobbies have served as a much-needed distraction from her newfound fame and life in the public eye. Still, music remains an invaluable creative outlet for Baby Queen as evidenced by her discussion of drug use and depression on songs like “These Drugs” and “I’m a Mess.” When she listens back to the music she wrote when she was struggling, it’s like facing a different version of herself.
‘‘You were so sad,’” she says, frowning for her past. “I just feel like I'm in a different place than that now.” That her fans have been able to connect with the lessons she’s learned from pain makes her musical pursuits all the more meaningful.
She says, “It is cathartic in a way, because it makes you feel like you're turning your pain into purpose.”