Despite the silly name, the pigtails, the propensity for cutesy posing with ice cream and candy, and of course the title Bubblegum all playing with ingenue tropes, Biig Piig – or Jessica Smyth – is a serious proposition. Irish born, partly Spanish raised, now resident in both London and LA, she’s been in the public eye since her songs started clocking up millions of streams in her late teens, and she seems to have quite a good grasp of where she’s going.
Linking with Lava La Rue’s NiNE8 multimedia collective, she’s taken her own sweet time in finding her voice and identity and is only now, at 25, releasing her debut “mixtape”. And it’s extremely assured.
This is pop for the era of Caroline Polachek, Charli XCX, Christine & The Queens, Billie Eilish, Pink Pantheress: full of electronic quirks, comfortable adopting underground dance styles, full of cool personal expression but always with a sharp ear for what makes a radio hit.
It starts with some of the sophisticated 80s funk that Harry Styles and hipster bands try so hard to get right but rarely do, delivered with breezy ease and unexpected dynamics, drifts through two-step UK garage and into the kind of glitched gothic techno-pop that Billie Eilish excels at.
Then we’re on through stomping, though heavily reverbed, Kylie / Dua Lipa type disco-pop, some trip-hop, some surprisingly rough-edged old school drum’n’bass, and round off with a little indie guitar chug in the way that Xenomania occasionally used to put onto Girls Aloud or Sugababes songs.
It could easily be a stylistic box-ticking exercise, but it’s anything but. Smyth’s musings on connection, desire and loss glow with personality, her silky voice is a thing of wonder, there are constant twists that stop the stylistic references falling into cliché, and the whole thing holds together fantastically. It could also feel lightweight at only seven tracks, but it punches well above its weight. A statement this bold suggests a lot more great work to come.
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