Confidence is an art. An illusive state of mind that ebbs and flows on its own accord. When you’re concluding a run of European and UK shows, especially with a sold-out three-night residency – as in the case of Lola Young at Haggerston’s Signature Brew – you can imagine it courses pretty strongly in the system.
Watching Lola perform, it’s hard to imagine she’s ever been anything but confident, as she circles her hands in the air, inciting the crowd into a singalong with her deep, well-ranged voice (she has plenty of reason to be confident about that).
Yet such is the wisdom beyond her years that she’s also self-aware enough to admit her foibles, and the illusory trick of the mind that confidence plays. “I act tougher than I really am,” she confides in us on ‘Stream Of Consciousness’, the opener to her debut album, My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely; “I’m 21 but feel like I’m getting on / The child in me has been and gone,” she adds, reflecting her old head on young shoulders (she’s now, still remarkably, just 22).
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This authenticity is helping Lola cultivate a fast-growing fanbase, who relate to her diaristic lyricism, as My Mind Wanders… unfurls the trials and tribulations of twentysomething, lovelorn life. It speaks to being in love, and falling out of it; being cheated on, and being the side thing. It’s like listening to your best mate tell you what’s really going on, once the party’s over and everyone else has left.
On this occasion, Lola’s crowd conversation wasn’t always as deep as a tell-all about an ex – much of her tunes would do that job, ‘Blind Love’ especially – but she at least told us about the newly-cut mullet she was hiding behind her beanie, and that she needed a wee but would power through regardless. Not everything has to be a DMC, after all.
But when it does come to spinning her tales, she has plenty of sonic strings to her bow, able to take us from the jazzy head-bop of ‘Conceited’ to the tender, nostalgic-sounding balladry of ‘What Is It About Me’ – the latter of which you feel could sit quite comfortably on an early record from fellow Brit School alumni Adele.
There’re plenty of fiery lyrical zingers, too – the sort that the crowd didn’t just repeat in unison but let out with a cathartic hiss. Lola’s biggest track to date, ‘Don’t Hate Me’, for instance, was sung with collective venom on the line “You said that I’m really fucking boring / Well, that’s rich coming from you,” as though each of Lola’s near-450,000 Instagram followers would do the same if given the chance. (The track has even been lip-synced in the past by the likes of Bella Hadid and Kylie Jenner on TikTok).
Equally, though, there are times when Lola’s contralto voice borders the over-theatrical, as on aforementioned ‘What Is It About Me’, that it threatens to be jarring, like sitting in the lunch hall with the drama kids. But she knows just when to reign it in, and will no doubt develop this fine art of knowing when less is more.
But it would be remiss to suggest Lola is putting on an act, with most of her songs aimed precisely at tearing down the facade of others. And despite her Brit School credentials, she’s not had it all easy. She was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, for instance, at the age of 17, and has had to adapt to having a cyst on her vocal cords, which she now uses to her advantage, adding a husky tone to the likes of pained reminiscer ‘Black Cab’.
And as she sat down before ‘Chill Out’ – a big pop banger that concludes her debut album, which here she eloquently turned into an acoustic number to suit the space – she assumed the role of agony aunt, imparting her life wisdom and telling us all that oh-so important phrase: “Everything’s gonna be okay.”
We were also treated to couple of unreleased tunes, like ‘Intrusive Thoughts’ and ‘Wish You Were Dead’ – the latter a sultry number that you can see leaving a similar mark to ‘Don’t Hate Me’. By the sounds of these, Lola has even more reason to be confident looking ahead. And if she’s not, that’s just fine – and you feel she’ll be more than comfortable enough in her own skin to let us know if she isn’t.