“I love how Beyoncé embraces sexiness,” says rising London-based musician Mabel. “I never want to look like there’s a man looking at me, or that I’m looking at a man down the camera lens. You should never be ashamed of wanting to be sexy, but I like to do it for myself.”
The 20-year-old singer and songwriter is unfazed by industry pressures to satisfy the male gaze, or any gaze for that matter. Her sensuality is all her own, a confidence that can clearly be felt through her soft vocals and self-possessed demeanour. Purveying a sound that registers the strength and soulfulness of R&B legends Destiny’s Child and Lauryn Hill, the Swedish-born artist possesses a sincerity that does away with any pretence, evident in her debut single “Know Me Better”, on which she sings, “Take it off, tell me everything, now there’s nothing in between us.”
Mabel wants her audience to see her for who she is, but as the youngest daughter of pop innovator Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey, it’s a tall order to accomplish. Even so, she’s undoubtedly proud of her musical heritage. “I think there was a time as a young teenager when I wanted to be known separately (from my parents),” she says. “But I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished. Without it, I wouldn’t be me.”
With shows scheduled at the ICA in March and Field Day in June, you’ll be seeing more of Mabel in 2016.
Text Monique Todd