These Queen Bees are Claiming the Brit-Pop Throne

These Queen Bees are Claiming the Brit-Pop Throne

Despite its boy-band roots, brit-pop's queen bees are making the most noise. From chart-topping cellists to R&B scions, this U.K.-based supergroup is poised to snatch the throne.

Despite its boy-band roots, brit-pop's queen bees are making the most noise. From chart-topping cellists to R&B scions, this U.K.-based supergroup is poised to snatch the throne.

Photography: Britt Lloyd

Styling: Kate Iorga

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

Generation V first appeared in V119, our Music Issue. V119 is available for sale now at vmagazine.myshopify.com.

Mabel

Born to Swedish pop star Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey, 23-year-old Mabel spent her first year of life in Andalusia, overlooking the Mediterranean and, on clear days, the Strait of Gibraltar or North Africa—a vantage point channeled in her afro-trap-meets-U.K. pop but one initially stymied by lifelong anxiety and the culture shocks of settling wherever mom and dad could create. “I struggled to figure out who I was,” she says of her schooling in Stockholm. “Everyone was ‘indie,’ but I just wanted to make R&B.” With her first LP in view, Mabel is poised to cross over like mom did years ago: “I know how difficult it is to break into the U.S.,” she says. “[But] my mom, and a lot of other amazing women, broke new ground. I am because she was.”

Little Simz

It took Little Simz all of a month to write and record 2019’s GREY Area, a smoky whirl of prophetic grime-rap. A former child actor (she starred on the BBC children’s adventure show Spirit Warriors) and a performer since nine, Simz matches her ambition in words-per-minute, maneuvering through rapidfire lyrics like “See them profit [by] depriving youth/Why you wanna all dress lies as truth?” With three albums under her belt already, Simz credits her development to her North London after-school club: “I am a product of my youth center; it’s a shame that a lot of them have closed,” she says, alluding to a recent trend that has seen over 80 such programs shutter. But Simz doesn’t identify as an advocate. “I am not trying to be a protest rapper,” she says. “I’m just 25. I don’t have all the answers.”

Grace Chatto of Clean Bandit

The musical influences of Grace Chatto—cellist, vocalist, classicist, linguist—span centuries. As one-third of Clean Bandit, the Cambridge-trained multi-“ist” reprises everything from Mozart and Europop. A cello maker’s daughter, Chatto met bandmates Jack and Luke Patterson at uni, where their contrapuntal method soon attracted London producers like James Blake. “We ran a monthly club night with live violin, cello and [guest DJs] whom we’d house in our dorms,” Chatto recalls. Fluent in Russian, Chatto is also versed in U.S. politics, recently taking on Trump in the video for “Mama” ft. Ellie Goulding. As to the provenance of the name “Clean Bandit”? “It means ‘absolute bastard’ in Russian,” she laughs. So if you’ve run out of epithets for Trump, try “chistiy banditka.”

Anne-Marie

If an all-grown-up phase is a pop star’s birthright, Anne-Marie is inverting the trope. “I feel young again,” says the 27-year-old. Fresh off her debut album Speak Your Mind featuring the hit “2002,” she is happy to indulge in nostalgia. “That’s when I won my first world karate championship,” she says of her ’02 self. But her pop brand is equal parts youthful abandon and vulnerability. “Sharing all the things I didn’t like about myself was my version of an empowered song,” she says of “Perfect,” a kind of “Beautiful” by Xtina redux. With confessional lyrics and karate chops in her emotional toolkit, she isn’t inclined to err à la pop stars past: “I’ve learned [that] everyone is going through their own shit. So clapping back publicly probably isn’t the best option.”

Credits:

Makeup Francesca Brazzo, Hair Rio Sreedharan, Producer Harry Fisher, Production assistant Alice Harrison

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