Ivy to Roses


Jun 11, 2019

The Old Mabel Meets The New

Written by @FerSP from Fernando Sempere / 15 mins read

What do you do when you are an unknown artist? How do you make your way into the competitive music industry? Should you be yourself? Should you get carried away ''by those on top''? How will the public react? All these questions are sure to haunt the heads of thousands of young artists who have the dream to emerge in this difficult music world, as full of glories as of sorrow. I would not be surprised if young Mabel, a 23-year-old British artist born in Malaga, has questioned this too. For those who do not know her, she is a young R&B promise that appeared in the music scene about 4 years ago, when the critics fell in love with her, but she did not cause great impact in the music market. Since then, the singer has released singles, as well as an EP called Bedroom, several collaborations with the top DJ of the time, and a mixtape: Ivy To Roses, at the end of 2017, and relaunched it with new songs at the beginning of this year. My attention is drawn to the way in which this last project has been proposed, which is the one we are going to analyze. We already presented the eternal struggle in the narrative of ANTI, where we explained that the record companies tend to squeeze their singers with songs without personality. Rihanna, due to her status, has managed to avoid this and be heard by herself, but ... what if you are a relatively new artist without any strength in this industry? Well, Mabel has been very smart.

A Young Girl Who Comes From The 90s.

Mabel is one of those artists who appears from nowhere and captivates you. She did it in 2015 when she introduced herself to the world with the great “Know me better”, a song that talks about the delicate fact of being open to someone and that moved us immediately to the old London R&B of the 90s. The singer showed great ability defending herself in this style, as if she herself had lived in the golden years of the genre. This exquisite taste does not come by chance: she is the daughter of hip-hop and rap singer Neneh Cherry, who was so popular in England at that time. In this way, her world has always been related to music, and since she was very small she knew she wanted to make a name for herself in this world. For this reason, she studied music production in Sweden. His first song was followed by “My boy my town”, another incredible piece of R&B with which Mabel began to emerge. The critics adored her (nominated to the MOBO Awards as Best Female Act and Best Newcomer) and the intense focus of young promises of music fell on her. This song, the best that the artist has released by far, transports you in a soft way while she talks to you about how places are capable of changing people. In addition, she demonstrated with her personal lyrics a great maturity and emotional charge that she manages to transmit with her voice. It seemed that she checked all the boxes to become a renowned artist, but unfortunately she could not convince the sales lists. And let's be clear, on many occasions your musical quality does not mean so much, but your music must sell if you want to continue in this industry. With “Thinking about you”, the artist's third single, she followed the same trail as with its predecessors, and the same thing happened with her first EP titled Bedroom. In this project, released in 2017, a closer approach to pop, commercial and danceable sounds could be glimpsed, as it also can be seen in the song that gives name to the EP or “Finders keepers”, without neglecting the r&b and neo-soul sound that characterizes her. This was only a small clue of what was going to happen: Mabel, who had already achieved a recognized fame began to collaborate with other artists such as DJ Jax Jones or rapper Not3s, where she approached the commercial market squarely. Although Mabel did not completely lose her essence, she moved away from her original sounds. And the great moment arrived: the presentation of his mixtape Ivy to roses. This project was released at the end of 2017, with tunes that were closer to the beginnings of the singer, to be relaunched this year 2019 adding the songs in which she has collaborated. But ... what has been the criterion, or better said strategy, by Mabel at the time of making this mixtape? As she herself once said: ''The old Mabel meets the new one''.

The Two Parts Of ‘Ivy To Roses’

How is the ‘’old Mabel’’? And the new one? How would a conversation between these two have gone? Would they have got on well? This is the theme to be discussed in Ivy to roses: Mabel tries to create a connection between her R&B facet and the more commercial one through her songs. Although this project is presented as a whole, we discover in it two totally differentiated parts, surely done conscientiously. The first part of the mixtape is identified with the ''New Mabel'' and is nothing more than a compilation of all the collaborations that the English artist has made during these last years. Mabel tries to get the generic public in her pocket with these danceable themes and made to sound on the dance floors, which are, in fact, the ones that have given her the fame she enjoys today. On the other hand, the second part deals with the ''Old Mabel'' where the singer returns to her roots, with songs more related to her first songs. Mabel wasn't wrong when she decided to offer two parts to please a larger number of fans, as well as critics and ensure a good performance in the charts. Surely it is no coincidence that the two parts are fully identifiable (track 1 to 7 the first part, from 8 to 14 the second), it seems that the English singer wants us to know that she is capable of defending herself in both areas, that even one part cannot work without the other and thus complement each other, and, above all, that she does not want to forget about her origins with those she introduced herself to the world. This perfectly joined project is presented with the single ´´Don’t call me up'', Mabel's biggest hit to date. And no wonder: this song has all the ingredients to be a hit: a catchy chorus, tropical and dance rhythms, all seasoned with a touch of R&B in a short and totally effective sound (seriously, has anyone been able to stop listening to this hymn? Because I haven't!). Mabel has deeply studied the song “New rules” by Dua Lipa, which led her to world fame. A song that talks about overcoming an ex, with a video surrounded by friends who are getting ready to party, an easy choreography and a message of feminine empowerment has been the formula to catapult the artist into the world sales lists (# 3 in the UK and top5 in several countries, as it begins to be heard in the USA). We do not know who Mabel was referring to in this song, but I'm sure he will be regretting how she treated her right now.

First Part, Happy Fans.

As we have already explained, in the first part of Ivy to Roses we find a series of more focused topics for the performance in the lists. It is the commercial Mabel, however, we realise that the artist has managed to successfully combine their musical style with popular sounds, thus obtaining a good group of tropical dances, often accompanied by collaborations to be reinforced. But Mabel can also defend a song by herself and good proof is “One shoot”, a fun and danceable mid-tempo where the singer talks about risking it all and knowing what you want. In the following topics, we will again find the popstar in her most confident facet and being a total heartbreaker. This diva-mood that we love, shows us a Mabel that is sure of herself and also apathetic as it is the general line that follows the first part of the mixtape, according to the songs made to dance and forget everything while you take a third, maybe forth, drink in the club. ''I got a warning for you / Do not play me at this, I never lose'' is what she sings on “Fine line”, her next song, where she tells a story about how a lover goes after her without getting attention. A track that begins in playful and smooth, and rises in tone as it advances due to the warm voice of Mabel, until the forceful chorus full of strength and drama arrives. Accompanied by her friend Not3s, the artist sings the most energetic and, at the same time, intriguing song of the "dancing side" of the project. All the songs that are presented in the mixtape have a clear potential to be a single due to their production and festive rhythms. “Finders Keepers” with Kojo Funds stands out among all as best song. The most R&B song of the repertoire, since it was already included in Bedroom, presents an instrumental hypnotic based on clapping, which makes it impossible to forget, also thanks to the chorus where Mabel is accompanied by a successful choir that invites you to sing until you have no voice left. No wonder that with this song she got her first top10 in the UK. With the intention of becoming an ''independent woman'' and demonstrate her strength, she continues her role as heartbreaker with phrases such as ''I don’t need miracles from ya’ / So let's keep the talk minimal''. A calmer theme is “My lover” with Not3s again. The duo gives us a little break with this relaxed and soft song. Mabel begins to set the tone for the second part of the mixtape. This shower of tranquility and chill after so many dancehall songs is appreciated, because, although they are all good tracks, where Mabel has been able to introduce her R & B influence, altogether they can sound repetitive, given the homogeneity of sounds. Separately we are faced with real great songs, but together they can be a tiny bit confusing, maybe it would have been a better idea to interject the themes of both parts? We are facing the last songs of the first half. With “Ring Ring” along with Jax Jones and Rich The Kid. Mabel moves away from her sound to approach the dance style with tropical dyes of the DJ, while she brings an urban and cheeky touch. Then we find the most tropical song of ITR: “Cigarette” in collaboration with the also growing RAYE and Stefflon Don. It is song that RAYE has lent to our protagonist for her project. The voices of these two singers come together perfectly, with a warm and energetic tone that contrasts with the unexpected rap of Stefflon, while the rhythm goes up in intensity, as well as the vitality of the voices. A trio of full-blown aces that give conclusion to the '' New Mabel ''.

Second Part, Mabel Happy.

You can tell that this is the singer's favourite part. In this, Mabel leaves aside the most commercial sounds to return to the sound of her first songs. This is the ''Old Mabel'', richer in any sense that comes our way: more versatile sounds and a voice that is presented to us in all its splendor and experimentation. We can see the comfort of the singer in these R&B spots, as if it were her natural habitat. We found a wide range of urban and R&B influences in this half, such as Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Ciara or Destiny's Child, singers who led the urban and R&B music in their golden days. “Ivy” is a perfect example, a piano ballad where Mabel gives a 180º turn and shows the most vulnerable version of herself. It resembles to song of a R&B girl band of the 90s, more specifically of the Destiny's, of which Mabel is a big fan, mainly thanks to the choirs that participate in the refrain. The singer presents a metaphor about the relationship she has with her boy, which is growing like ivy. Amorous relationships are the recurring theme in Mabel's songs but, if in the first piece she presented herself as a little femme-fatale, in this part she shows us her most fragile and tender side. Nevertheless, being powerful doesn't mean you can't be delicate, and this is demonstrated in “Come over”, where Mabel shows determination and clarity, but at the same time lack of affection, and calls off her lover for the little attention paid to her (''You ask me baby , your's or mine? / Why even ask? You know I'm tired''). It is in this song where we can appreciate perfectly the crystalline and mellow voice of the young popstar. Same formula for “Begging”. As if it were a sequel, the story that the girl begins to tell in the previous song continues. It seems that things are not going well, and an incisive Mabel lashes out at her boy: ''tryna make me stay / I wanna see you on your knees / Wanna see you begging''. Confidence is palpable in the crystalline voice of the singer in this refreshing song that sounds as contemporary as the late 90s. And the fact is that Mabel is part of the growing generation of independent women who drink from the R & B of yesteryear. Kali Uchis, Tinahse, Janelle Monae, H.E.R. or Jorja Smith, these incredible artists are taking over this musical style, previously captained by men and renewing it with their original sounds. They exercise the ''R & B recycling phase', since they take the sounds of past times and cover them with modern and current melodies, creating something fresh but that sounds familiar. “Low key” is the perfect example: an overflowing confidence for a memorable track that transports us to its first compositions and where it tells men to relax. Change of style for “Roses”, the deepest and most sensible song of the project, where the singer gives it all. This ballad has a special relationship with “Ivy”, the two songs that give name to the mixtape: while “Ivy” talks about how their relationship progresses, with “Roses” she sings about the consequences of the end of it. These original connective strategies between songs are used to create stories that keep the listener in suspense and demonstrate a maturity in the project. But as we said before, fragility does not take away strength, and Mabel reminds us that she is a strong woman in “Weapon”. In this song, the young girl sends a clear message to all men: don't-mess-with-me. A more experimental aura is sensed in this theme, a delicious and smooth mid-tempo with soul and hip-hop touches, will it be a clue as to what can come in future projects? This half of the mixtape is closed with “Passionfruit”, where Mabel covers the famous Drake song, giving it a softer and more tempered touch.

And, Finally, Everybody Is Happy.

Mabel has been smart and cautious when presenting this re-edition of Ivy to Roses. On the one hand, she wants to make her way into the industry, and on the other, to be true to itself. In this way, she has given way to commercial and festive sounds, reaching a wider audience, but without neglecting her R&B roots and trends of the 90s. A mix of her essence and what it is going to sell. The young singer is comfortable in both pieces, demonstrating great versatility, and has managed to bring the project to success, reaffirming her status as a rising star. But it is true that, although both parties share Mabel's DNA, one wins over the other in quality and depth. And it is in this difference where we find the meaning of 'ITR': Mabel growing as a person and artist. Loving relationships are the general theme of the songs of the mixtape, a mix between vulnerability and power from which the young girl is taking lessons. We are presented with a wide range of feelings embodied by the artist herself, going through strength and confidence, even arrogance, to reach fragility and delicacy. Two parts of a whole: the '' Old Mabel '' and the '' New Mabel '', the vulnerable girl and the diva, the reflection and wanting to have a good time. We can all feel identified with this. Beware! Next July 12th, she will release her first album, called High Expectations. Mabel, we do have expectations. Indeed, we do.