Shygirl Nymph Because Music
As an archetype, the nymph was shaped in antiquity: these young girls would ensnare male wanderers with their enchanting beauty and insatiable sexual appetites. Calypso, obsessed with fulfilling her desires, held Odysseus prisoner on her island, forcing him to sleep with her in the hopes of winning his love. Hylas, fetching water, was dragged to the bottom of the well by a group of nymphs, never to be seen again.
From the jump, Shygirl, the south London rapper, DJ and pop star otherwise known as Blane Muise, has explored frank sexuality through lyrics that are anything but coy. “You wanna fuck fast, I’m into it/ You wanna play rough, I’m into it/I want more,” she deadpanned on 2016’s Want More, her no-nonsense vocals playing off against collaborator Sega Bodega’s scattered, tactile production.
Viewing Shygirl’s debut album as a tongue-in-cheek reappraisal of the maligned mythical figure is tempting. Take opener Woe. In it, a chorus of strange, high-pitched voices emit from the void, luring with their siren call before snapping into something more threatening: repetitive electronic ticks and clicks mimic a reptile circling its prey. “You just love to hate, and you do it so well,” she sings as cinematic strings swirl, calling to mind the high-budget productions of pop songs written by powerful women dealing with vulnerability. Think What It Feels Like for a Girl by Madonna or White Flag by Dido – both of whom Shygirl and Sega Bodega cite as influences.
Strange sonic creatures also emerge from the depths on Come for Me, a mutant reggaeton stepper produced by Arca (who, in a neat coincidence, explored similar themes with artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen at Berghain last year). Coochie (a bedtime story) is a queer ode to you-know-what over a trap beat, with melodies that climax at the hook. Poison is a champagne-soaked blog-house anthem about a toxic relationship, replete with a raucous accordion hook and club-ready bass squelches. Missin U, an eerie rap interlude on jealousy, cuts like a jilted lover’s knife. Here, Shygirl goes full vengeance mode.
In a 2019 interview, Shygirl admitted to being a “late bloomer” who devoured fantasy books as a kid – not for nothing the introverted moniker. London’s underground club scene has always made space for introverts who thrive on the anonymity of fantastical worlds – whether releasing music under secret aliases or physically concealing identities altogether.
While Shygirl is now more comfortable in the spotlight, she still uses these personas as a means of expression. As a DJ, producer and burgeoning pop star, she is adept at inhabiting different characters to express her own multiplicities and contradictions. Booty calling every guy in her phone book in the verse, then dreading being alone in the chorus? Sure. The queen of sex bangers contains multitudes – or perhaps it’s just called being human. The Classics could never.