Strolling down the halls of Truham Grammar School for Boys, a bright-eyed Charlie Spring scrolls through his text messages as, in the background, bubbly vocals lilt, “I’ll go anywhere you wanna go/ Take me to places that I don’t know.”
This buoyancy composes the opening scene of Netflix’s “Heartstopper,” a television show indebted to its magnetic pop soundtrack. Charging the first episode with vitality, 24-year-old artist Baby Queen turns Charlie’s diffidence on its head with tracks that serve as the beating heart of the series.
Though her Baby Queen persona drips with stately cynicism, Bella Latham exudes warmth and wit, relaying the same kind-hearted candor that constructs all eight episodes.
“I immediately connected to the story so much,” Latham said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I saw myself in the entire experience of the show, which is the most amazing description of every facet of what it’s like to exist in the LGBTQ+ community.”
Creator Alice Oseman and executive producer Patrick Walters linked Baby Queen’s audacious lyrics and earworm melodies to the series, using her discography to shape the show’s tone. Rather than merely asking Latham for permission to use her music in the show, Oseman and Walters invited her to be a part of the creative team.
“At the very beginning, there was no concept of (“Heartstopper”) becoming what it has become in my life,” Latham said. “I don’t think there’s a better home for my music anywhere.”
Having signed with Polydor Records in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Latham has spent the past two years refining her sound and curating her Baby Queen persona — all satirical musings and golden grandeur — while learning how to stay true to her personal identity.
“Because the music was so honest, it became very much like ‘I am the person that I’m selling here, so I have to get as close to who I am as possible,’ ” Latham explained. “So, it’s been this very therapeutic discovery of facing the s— about yourself that you don’t like and facing what you truly believe about life.”
In polishing her artistry, songwriting served as a means of catharsis for Latham. Unable to perform live due to lockdown, she fine-tuned her tracks, releasing her EP Medicine (2020) and her mixtape The Yearbook (2021).
“There are definite parameters of what kind of song and what kind of tone of voice a Baby Queen song is, like you can’t just do anything,” Latham said. “Especially when you’re working on something like an album or a set piece of work, you have to know the boundaries of that thing.”
But that isn’t to say that Latham is afraid to push limits. Her discography sparkles with ebullience, each track a sincere, uninhibited representation of growing up. While a typical Baby Queen lyric pangs with the pain of youth, her euphonic instrumentation shines with exuberance, inviting listeners to dance their troubles away.
The ability to mask candid trepidation with poppy sarcasm makes Baby Queen an exemplary artist for those in their mid-twenties and, naturally, the perfect supporting act for Olivia Rodrigo on her European SOUR tour.
“My little cousin plays bass in my band, so we’ve had multiple moments just every now and then where we look at each other and we’re like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” Latham recalled. “It’s crazy because I think it’s just so easy to forget where you were. I don’t think you ever get used to it.”
Now, post SOUR tour, Latham is facing her biggest challenge yet: completing her debut album. Given Baby Queen’s spontaneous lyricism and experiments with sound, the expectation to create a cohesive album has proven to be demanding.
“I’m sitting in the drum booth clutching onto my drumsticks for dear life, like I’m f—ing terrified,” Latham said.
In her upcoming record’s early stages, Latham found inspiration from Taylor Swift — one of her childhood idols whose cardboard cutout, fittingly, resides in her recording studio.
“I went into this album weirdly saying ‘Right, we’re making 1989,’ and then I didn’t like it,” Latham explained. “Baby Queen is just not that. What I realized is the dirtier, more dangerous stuff felt like a better world for me to exist in.”
In trading the rich sheen of her prior projects for a ’90s-inspired album, the young artist is embracing her coronation into the world of alt-pop. And, with another season of “Heartstopper” on the horizon, Latham hopes to adorn the series with music that glimmers alongside Nick and Charlie’s blooming relationship — a representation of not only her growth as an artist, but also of the narrative that elevated her ascent to pop royalty.