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Holly Humberstone’s ‘Paint My Bedroom Black’: An insight into the complexity of adolescence

Since the release of her debut EP Falling Asleep at the Wheel in 2020, Holly Humberstone has cemented her place within the music industry, slowly growing from strength to strength ever since. The release of her debut album Paint My Bedroom Black has been much awaited by her cult following.  

After being named the BRIT Awards’ Rising Star in 2022, Humberstone has opened for Olivia Rodrigo on the North American leg of her triumphant Sour Tour), collaborated with Sam Fender on the acoustic version of his hit song ‘Seventeen Going Under’, and most recently appeared on Bombay Bicycle Club’s latest single ‘Diving’. The 23-year-old’s debut album Paint My Bedroom Black effortlessly details her struggles with her sudden trajectory into stardom and the tumultuous experience of life constantly on the road.

Humberstone perfectly encapsulates the anxieties surrounding growing up through the lyrics

The album’s opening song ‘Paint My Bedroom Black’ contains a catchy refrain and a repeated guitar riff, immediately introducing the listener to Humberstone’s inner thoughts. However, the title track fails to meet the quality of lyricism that flows through the songwriter’s previous EPs, with the song ultimately becoming lost, overshadowed by tracks featured later in the album. One of these tracks is ‘Ghost Me’, a plea to a friend to not “ghost” her and “quit being in her life”. Humberstone perfectly encapsulates the anxieties surrounding growing up through the lyrics, “Everybody has up and left/ and I can barely catch my breath”.

In a recent interview with NME, Humberstone discusses how life on tour was her primary influence when crafting this album, declaring how “the fear of change is something [she] struggles with”. ‘Lauren’ serves as a great example of this. An apology to her friend ‘Lauren’, Humberstone is aware that she “dropped the ball” as the fast-paced life of living on the road has interfered with her relationships, also a present theme in ‘Elvis Impersonators’. Additionally, it is in the middle of the album, where these songs sit, when the singer comes into her own.

Humberstone cites Lorde and Phoebe Bridges as her greatest songwriting influences, and this is certainly evident

‘Into Your Room’ conjures a sense of longing as Humberstone pleads for a lover to not leave her or her “soul will be eternally doomed”. Featuring a constant drum beat and a catchy chorus that has become a trademark of Humberstone’s previous work, much like ‘Scarlett’ and ‘Sleep Tight’, ‘Into Your Room’ is bound to be replaying in your head all day. On the topic of relationships, ‘Superbloodmoon’ is the only collaborative song on the album, featuring D4vd, with their voices complementing each other perfectly.

Humberstone cites Lorde and Phoebe Bridges as her greatest songwriting influences, and this is certainly evident throughout Paint My Bedroom Black, with ‘Flatlining’ being reminiscent of something that may be featured on Lorde’s Pure Heroine (2013) or Melodrama (2017). Humberstone nearly matches Lorde’s ability to deliver emotional insight through captivating ballads. A distorted heartbeat monitor can be heard in the background of the cleverly crafted ‘Flatlining’, alongside a constant change of tempo, symbolic of the chaos of emotions that become intertwined with adolescence.

When discussing the honesty of emotions ‘Cocoon’ must be mentioned. Don’t let the upbeat tempo of this song fool you, its emotional insight is comparable to the stripped-back songs that litter the album. “Now I’ve become a taxidermy version of myself / the laundry’s piling up / the plants are dying on the shelf” sings Humberstone. The singer’s blatant honesty is raw and refreshing and that is what makes the album excel. ‘Room Service’, the final song on the debut album, is a stripped-back, acoustic ballad, reminiscent of Humberstone’s first single ‘Deep End’. It seems the perfect ending to the album as the emotional declaration of love calmly wraps up the chaotic variety of feelings that permeate the album.

Although just over forty minutes long, Humberstone has managed to masterfully create an album that smoothly moves between the distinct mixture of emotions that every young adult can relate to. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter clearly wore her heart on her sleeve when penning the thirteen songs present on her debut album, with lyrics and stylisation easily comparable to her contemporaries Gracie Abrams and Lizzie McAlpine. Now that Humberstone has discovered her sound through her EPs and debut album, it will be interesting to follow how she develops this further.

Holly Humberstone is touring in March 2024, with shows all around the UK.


Recommended listening: ‘Into Your Room’, ‘Cocoon’, ‘Ghost Me’

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