YouTube comments are funny things. (I should know.) ‘GIVE THIS WOMAN A GRAMMY ALREADY’ — ‘SHE DOESN’T NEED A GRAMMY. THE GRAMMYS NEED HER. [STAR EMOJI]’ — ‘FRRR’. Or so goes one string of comments that express the vibes of a fan base of a newcomer to celebrity and pop music. But Sabrina Carpenter is no stranger to fame and misfortune, as expressed by last year’s pivotal ‘Skin’: ‘You’re putting me in the spotlight / But I’ve been under it all my life.’
I’ve previously noted the apparent pivot from the electronic R&B sounds of the preceding Singular albums to the more acoustic sounds of this year’s emails i can’t send, which echo Carpenter’s earlier work on Eyes Wide Open and Evolution, when electronic sounds began to enter the mix. The present album and upcoming American tour draw on both sonic poles, integrating them sometimes exquisitely on songs like ‘because i liked a boy’, which Carpenter performed on the Late Late Show with James Corden. Why her record label decided to delay the late show debut until at least a month after her album premiere is a mystery. It bears comparison to Lisa from Blackpink’s commercial numbers on her debut double release from 2021 being withheld.
Labels seem to be suppressing the future leaders of pop and hip hop in order to draw on the more easily controllable artists. But both Lisa and Sabrina have played their cards well. Lisa stands out as the most charismatic and competent member of Blackpink, while Sabrina has turned a convenient blind eye to the YouTube leaks of several unreleased hip hop numbers, presumably ones that her label judged too forward-looking for today’s short-sighted pop music industry. The result is Sabrina is now on an artistic pedestal previously occupied by the likes of Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift, as well, perhaps, as Britney Spears and Kanye West — even if her commercial performance with her current record label does not reflect this fact.
The three performances of ‘because i liked a boy’ alone show versatility and skill. The Samsung performance was a compelling vocal showcase, the music video a dance-oriented theatrical extravaganza, and the first public live performance on the James Corden show a surprising but welcome integration of guitar playing for a musician whose main instrument (besides singing) is the piano. I’m reminded of the artistic indie rock excursions of Billie Eilish’s elder brother and producer FINNEAS.
Sabrina Carpenter is, I think, heir to the crown once sought by Camila Cabello and Billie Eilish, and yet it is just out of reach. As with Lisa and hip hop, I stand by my claim that Sabrina Carpenter is plausibly the next pop superstar. She has waited so long. In today’s troubled world and confused music industry, however, she may have to wait a little while longer. We can only hope the music artistry to come is worth the wait. I have every confidence it will be. Good luck.