Cherry bomb: R&B singer Mabel is our new VBF
The daughter of Neneh Cherry has the buffalo stance, but she’s also got the tunes
Buffalo pal: Mabel
When it comes to good genes, R&B singer Mabel has hit the jackpot. Spanish-born and Swedish-raised, and now London-based, she has the permanent cool and mysterious air of the new girl in school. She’s also the daughter of singer and songwriter Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack record producer Cameron McVey, so her cool points always soar high no matter who else is in the room.
Born Mabel McVey, the 22-year-old has been releasing music since 2015, but the last 18 months have seen her pave a clear path for herself in the charts, either featuring on tracks by London rapper and BBC Sound of 2018 nominee Not3s, covering Drake’s Passionfruit, which features on her 2017 Ivy to Roses mixtape, or with her own material that’s set to feature on her forthcoming debut album. From what we know of Mabel so far, she’s confident, independent, savvy and she has a low tolerance for messing, making her the perfect candidate for our VBF.
Addicted to love
She kicked off 2018 with aplomb – aplomb, we say! – with her and Not3s’ single Fine Line and Cigarette, her collaboration with RAYE and Stefflon Don, who are also making waves in the UK music scene. Fine Line captures the uncertainty of that period between fooling around and something more serious. “I know how this thing goes/ I know the beat to your love/ I know how you like yours,” she punches over a tripping beat, stating her interests in something more without selling herself short. On Cigarette, she’s the bad thing that you just can’t quit.
Her 2016 single Thinking of You is a glorious time capsule of TLC and 3LW-influenced R&B and even though she’s completely besotted – “Driving on the wrong side thinking of you/ On the tenth floor thinking of you” – she makes it seem as if her crush should be honoured to be taking up a fraction of her time.
She has said in almost every interview that she wants to create a different sound than her parents’, but the sentiment of her mother’s 1988 single Buffalo Stance is inherently hers too. And while her father is prominently known for producing Massive Attack’s 1991 album Blue Lines, he also co-produced All Saints’ self-titled 1997 debut, which features the iconic Never Ever, and Sugababes’ debut 2000 album One Touch. The music of both All Saints and Sugababes (the original and second line-up) captures a laid-back attitude that Mabel has undoubtedly been influenced by.
Suga and spice
When All Saints first came on the scene, their smooth R&B pop songs and cool exteriors were the antidote to the loudness and madness of The Spice Girls, and the Sugababes were self-proclaimed “moody cows” but, with the glorious gift of hindsight, their message wasn’t in-your-face because there’s power in stillness. Mabel has captured that stillness. It’s as if these artists just sail through life just as easily as they weather the storms.
While there is no release date for her debut album just yet, Mabel is putting in the hours. She will be visiting Ireland no less than three times in April, supporting the one and only Harry Styles on April 16th in the 3Arena, supporting Not3s on April 19th in The Academy’s Green Room, and playing her first headlining Irish gig on April 21st, also in The Academy’s Green Room.
She may have been born into a musical dynasty of sorts but she’s laying the groundwork herself and, like All Saints and Sugababes before her, her stillness means that she’s not kicking and screaming for your attention – she’s luring you in quietly instead.