Miss World – Keeping Up With Miss World (PNKSLM RECORDINGS)
Part satirical commentary on the empty vacuosity of life dictated by social media trends, lifestyle mags and hashtags, part art project, Miss World’s debut album “Keeping Up With Miss World” manages to be astute, funny, acerbic, engaging and crucially is absolutely rammed with killer pop tunes.
After a plethora of superb single releases, Miss World finally releases her debut album ‘Keeping Up With Miss World.’ For those who shamefully haven’t taken heed of the album’s title, Miss World is the project of London based artist Natalie Chahal (previously one half of Shit Girlfriend alongside Laura-Mary Carter of Blood Red Shoes) who combines sugar-sweet vocals with sardonic wit, a grungy trash-pop-thrash and perfect melody.
Miss World, the “character” is obviously the conduit through which Chahal channels her laser-sharp satire, as she mixes classic garage grunge with glorious Spectoresque girl group harmonies given a 2018 reboot. The twist here, however, is that Miss World is holding a mirror up to the inherent emptiness of fame for its own sake, the disconnect between the real world and the one featured on social media and the over eager willingness to buy into the false reality sold by lifestyle magazines designed to promote rapacious consumerism. “We have social media and everyone’s kind of representing themselves in a way that we don’t know what’s real and what’s fake or plastic” reflected Chahal recently whilst she describes the album and concept as “a multi-coloured sonic mood board featuring torn up images of Ariel Pink, Kim Gordon, Clueless OOTDs, Madonna and Kim Kardashian smeared with gluestick goo.”
From the glorious opening guitar riff of the album opener, ‘Diet Coke Head’ Chahal proves she can write grungy Spectoresque harmonies with the best as she aims aims her playful vitriol at recurring targets such as consumerism, the shallowness of fame for its own sake, idealized body images and miracle diet pills.
Lyrics such as “Daddy won’t pay to inflate my chest/ that’s ok cos my life is so groovy/ my life is so groovy, it’s so groovy/ now put me in a movie “ and “All the boy’s they really like me/ All the girls they wanna fight me/ I’ll have fun ’till the day I’m dead/ with all this space, up in my head “ on the wonderful ‘Put Me In A Movie’ encapsulate perfectly what Miss World is all about
“(U Watch My) Stories (But U Don’t Like My Posts)” once again returns to the superficial nature of living a life online, and the empty voyeurism and envy it can often engender, whilst “Don’t U Wanna Be Me Sometimes” tries to shine on light those whose ambition seems to be limited to becoming the next Kardashian.
Whether Chalhal considers the Miss World concept, rather like online trends to have a short shelf life remains to be seen, but in terms of sheer songwriting ability, it certainly should go beyond one album. Conversely, its Miss Worlds perceived lack of substance that actually lends the album real substance, ‘Click And Yr Mine’ and ‘Buy Me Dinner’ could be just as much about Tinder commodifying relationships as it could empty consumer culture. You can, of course, enjoy the album purely as a scuffed up lo-fi pop gem which gives the “girl-group” sound a much-needed reboot and update without buying into the concept. Indeed the album sounds very much like how the Shangri-La’s and the Crystals may have sounded had they been influenced by Rrriot girl instead of an abusive bewigged gun-toting murderous pop genius.
Songs such as ‘Oh Honey’, and ‘Don’t You Wanna Be Me Sometimes’ taken purely as pop songs are so on point, authentic and melodically potent that they certainly stand up next to any of Spector’s canonised classics. Chalhal’s humour can be playful, yet direct as she takes a swipe at social media and selfie culture but she never comes across as snarky and instead explores “the millennial experience” and asks questions such as where do we place value? Can we really encapsulate complex issues in a simple meme and only convey emotion via emojis ? Are we genuinely as self-obsessed, empty and narcissistic as Miss World appears? Do we really “wanna be like her sometimes?”
It’s an album that often harks back to the past for its sound mining retro pop culture quite brilliantly, whilst thematically it is very much rooted in 2018. #9.5/10