Lola Young – ‘This Wasn’t Meant For You Anyway’ review: essential, captivatingly messy pop

The south Londoner's first full-length release is the most distinctive and daring realisation of her experimental tendencies yet

Lola Young’s fierce, funny and assertive songs run on outsized emotions, the 23-year-old singer emboldened and finally embracing everything she has to offer. ‘This Wasn’t Meant For You Anyway’, Young’s first full-length album, moves with an auteur-like touch to its production; opulent soul set pieces stand tall next to raw, scratchy indie tunes, all of which see the south Londoner face desire in its many complications. It’s a collection that feels equally empowered and tormented. Or, as one Instagram commenter put it, this is music that could make a listener “want to pick up a refrigerator and throw it”.

There’s truth to that statement, however hyperbolic it may sound. By contending lyrically with self-esteem and intrusive thoughts, Young has found a devoted fanbase online who praise her for the way she takes lovers and more, erm, casual partners to task. She first broke through as the vocalist behind the 2021 John Lewis Christmas advert; even if three years is a near-eternity in pop, it certainly would have been difficult to foresee her one day dropping the c-bomb as well as singing nakedly about a schizoaffective disorder diagnosis.

None of the material from previous mixtapes nor last year’s ‘My Mind Wanders And Sometimes Leaves Completely’ project appears here. The latter’s ‘Don’t Hate Me’ was a streaming smash, and could have been included in order to benefit playlisting; its absence, however, allows ‘This Wasn’t Meant For You Anyway’ to present itself as a new and cohesive vision for Young’s future. The album’s overarching mood is powerful but unshowy, as evidenced by a moving spoken word outro.

Young has a knack for storytelling that feels real and even unflattering. The emotional force of her pain throughout ‘Conceited’ propels its boom-bap arrangements, while on the flipside, she radiates the cathartic levity of the ‘girl who is going to be okay’ meme on ‘Walk On By’, an anthem centred on reclaiming agency. “Said you got nowhere to go / Well, you could start with the lift to the ground floor,” she sings over animated drum beats. It feels like the beginning of a journey towards a peace Young did not allow herself in her earlier music.


Settling into young adulthood is rarely a linear path, she continues to remind us, and it comes with plenty of indecision and setbacks. But the album also finds a quiet freedom in knowing that nothing is guaranteed, so you might as well fuck around and have fun (‘Big Brown Eyes’, the doo wop-infused ‘Messy’). It’s a framing that also gives her license to roam through themes of sexual freedom on ‘Fuck’.

Though Young’s specific type of yearning and bluntness may be indebted to SZA, she possesses the genuine star power to further develop an already strong artistic identity. This is a record that always remains sure of itself, even in its deepest, darkest moments.



  • Release date: June 21
  • Record label: Island

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