O2 Academy 2 Birmingham, 3rd November 2023
It’s an ordinary Friday night, or so it seems. But inside the second room of Birmingham’s O2 Academy, something very special is about to happen. Those who know they are going to see Baby Queen know why the venue is decorated in the way it is, but an outsider, may wonder why it’s decorated like the inside of a teenage bedroom. A backdrop of a messy, pink, teenage bedroom adorns the stage, and in front of it, everything is pink. From a pink guitar to a pink ‘Baby Queen’ logo on the stage to pink crown decorations everything is pink. The reason? The South African-born and raised singer, Arabella Latham, known professionally as Baby Queen, is about to perform.
Latham was propelled into stardom after her contribution to the soundtrack for the Netflix smash hit coming-of-age romantic comedy Heartstopper. Since then, Latham has only continued rising to fame and has amassed a sizeable fanbase, most of whom are also Heartstopper fans. And as people hold handmade Baby Queen and Heartstopper signs before the show starts, the anticipation in the air is palpable.
As Latham takes the stage, the crowd erupts into a unanimous cheer as she launches into ‘Quarter Life Crisis’, the title track of her soon-to-be-relased debut album. “What if all of my best years are behind me? What if they ended when I was nineteen?” she sings on the track. And with an audience that can’t have been older than nineteen themselves, it’s a painfully relatable question.
But at times, the audience not knowing the songs works to Latham’s advantage
It is through no fault of her own that the release of Quarter Life Crisis has been delayed, but it does pose a significant challenge for Latham: keeping the audience engaged when the audience has not listened to a large proportion of the songs. But the setlist proves to include some unreleased gems like ‘Kid Genius’ and ‘23’. And while the crowd cannot sing along to the infectious spoken word of ‘Kid Genius’ or the smooth, classy chorus of ‘23’, they still sway and nod to the beat. They may not know the songs, but Latham’s stage presence and the magnetic energy of her performance hold the audience captive. Donning an oversized black t-shirt dress, pink hair, and sunglasses, she exudes a cool charisma that you can only appreciate fully in person.
But at times, the audience not knowing the songs works to Latham’s advantage. During ‘Die Alone’, a toe-tapping, self-deprecating tune, the audience lets out a collective chuckle when she sings its humorous refrain, “Everybody’s got somebody, I’ve got ADD,” as they hear the line for the first time.
However, it is her 2020 hit ‘Buzzkill’ that ignites the crowd. Featured in the fifth episode of the first series of Heartstopper, the song reminds the crowd of how most of them got to know Baby Queen, and how far they’ve come since then.
Baby Queen reigns supreme, captivating the audience and leaving a lasting impression
The unsung hero of the show isn’t just Baby Queen; it’s the lighting. In the relatively small O2 Academy 2, Baby Queen’s lighting setup is astonishing, rivalling that of larger venues. The lights dance through the rainbow spectrum, syncing seamlessly with the music and Latham’s stage banter. They enhance the overall experience, making it feel like a grand production. They, of course, shine green the entire way through ‘every time i get high’ (a song, unsurprisingly, about weed) and bright pink during ‘Want Me’, a song Latham wrote about being in love with actress Jodie Comer.
As the set progresses, the crowd’s energy grows. Hits like ‘Internet Religion’ and ‘Raw Thoughts’ keep the room pulsating. Then, a poignant moment arrives as Latham shares her journey from South Africa to London at 17 and the changes she and her loved ones have undergone. This heartfelt introduction leads to ‘Obvious’, a moving piano ballad that touches the audience’s soul. The transition to the upbeat ‘i can’t get my shit together’ and ‘Dover Beach’ leaves the crowd entranced, with Latham leading the congregation in song.
The encore begins with ‘Want Me’ and is quickly followed by ‘We Could Be Anything’. By the end of the night, Baby Queen reigns supreme, captivating the audience, and leaving a lasting impression. As concertgoers leave with the chorus of ‘Want Me’ echoing in their minds, it’s clear that Baby Queen has left her mark on Birmingham.