Published Feb 15, 2019"You know when don't you realize that you could pursue the thing you really love the most? For me, pop is that thing," says Kelsie Hogue, aka Sir Babygirl, explaining how a theatre-school student who dabbled in the Boston hardcore scene turned herself into a pop diva with top 40 ambitions for her new album Crush on Me (out now on Father/Daughter Records).
"It's my favourite music, so why wouldn't I want to make music that I want to listen to?"
Hogue, who identifies as genderqueer, is part of a new breed of aspiring pop stars pushing the boundaries of what a pop artist looks and sounds like. Inspired by the likes of Charli XCX and the PC Music crew, not to mention early-aughts pop icons Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, she's looking to infiltrate the mainstream with her debut album, a brash, infectious collection of what she calls "outsider top 40."
"I always wanted to be in entertainment," she says, noting that she wrote her first song as Sir Babygirl back in 2015. But coming from New Hampshire with zero industry connects, she had no idea how to even get her foot in the door — let alone break through in a genre that's dominated by a cadre of professional songwriters forever in pursuit of that elusive hit. "It's been a long, big-ass delusional dream. Now a few people are buying into my delusion."
The singer, songwriter and producer made her DIY bona fides while briefly fronting a "hardcore bubblegum" group in Boston. "It was all very absurd," she recalls. "I did a Taylor Swift cover of 'Bad Blood' in a towel, like I just got out of the shower, and halfway through I had fake blood making it look like I had my period onstage."
Yet Hogue never had a strong connection to the music her peers revered — "I didn't have the same idols as everyone" — and she found herself continually being drawn back to pop, a world she'd previously dismissed for its misogyny. But a clutch of releases — Carly Rae Jepsen's E•MO•TION and Grimes' Art Angels among them — triggered a reappraisal. "It was like, 'Holy shit, these fucking women are just writing amazing shit and like, weird pop.' I didn't even know you could do that."
After trying her hand as a comedian in Chicago (she calls comedy "one of the most healing art forms," and "the heartbeat" of her music), she moved back in with her parents in New Hampshire in 2016, built a home recording studio and started writing and honing the Sir Babygirl persona: "surrealist takes on little things and big things smooshed together." With the album's title as a jumping-off point, she'd record demos for songs like "Heels" and "Flirting With Her" and pieces of music herself, then head into Boston on weekends to hammer out finished songs with her engineer.
She recalls friends asking what she was doing back at home, to which she'd respond, "Oh, I'm making a pop album." She laughs at the memory, but admits that the incongruity is part of the appeal.
"I'd love to have a Billboard charting song on Father/Daughter," she says. The label, who are releasing Crush on Me, and whose roster includes DIY luminaries like Vagabon and Diet Cig, feels like the antithesis of the mainstream pop machine. "I love the idea of decentralizing pop music and coming from the outside," she says, but that doesn't limit who she was writing for.
"It's for everyone. It's for music nerds, it's for dads taking their kids to soccer practice. I love the idea of being accessible, being able to write clear stuff."