Don’t let the demure stage name fool you: Shygirl is anything but shy. Since 2016, the London-born singer, rapper, and DJ has been steadily crafting a catalog of vulgar, fiercely danceable club bangers. A longtime collaborator with experimental pop producer Sega Bodega, Shygirl takes the essence of the most exciting subgenres of electronic and pop music—from jungle to hyperpop—and dials them up to the max, creating songs that are feverishly hedonistic. Her debut full-length album, Nymph (2022), saw Shygirl stretch her sound into a languid sensuality, but her latest EP, Club Shy (2024), is an unabashed return to the frantic soundscape of her earliest work. 

The sounds of Club Shy harken back to the early 2000s, a nod to the golden years of quirky, carefree dance music. Shygirl professed her love for the era in an interview with Mixmag, noting, “That era of electronic music was fun and not pretentious in any way. I love those cliché moments, about longing for someone, in club music. They’re cliché because they have so much life and truth in them.” While the EP doesn’t necessarily channel the camp silliness of groups like the Vengaboys, who she cites as inspiration, Shygirl certainly embodies that sense of unbothered fun. 

Breakout track “f@k€” surely embraces the Vengaboys sound, opening with Shygirl commanding,  “To the club!” over tinny percussion. A tongue-in-cheek ode to the synthetic and simulated, “f@k€” uses playful, almost chiptune-esque keyboard riffs to evoke the lighthearted sound of 00s Eurodance. But Shygirl doesn’t stay mellow for long, and drags us back to her seedy, seductive world of thundering bass and distorted groans in the chorus. 

While she might be most known for expressing a sexuality seemingly devoid of feeling (on her TikTok-famous single “UCKERS,” she proclaims “I don’t give a fuck about you / But I really keep on fuckin’ till I fuck all of you”), Shygirl is at her best when she oscillates between salacious brashness and wistful longing. Suddenly, the two extremes feel reconcilable through her breathy, entrancing vocals. On Nymph, this unlikely fusion made for the hypnotic “Shlut,” where Shygirl confesses “I can’t deal with the thought of you leaving me” and in practically the same breath, “nympho, yeah boy, you know I never miss a beat.” 

Club Shy’s “mr useless” is the spiritual successor to “Shlut,” as she once again seamlessly blends a glimmer of insecurity into a track that is almost frighteningly confident. The track opens with an energetic punch, as Shygirl sweetly insists that she “never needed you / never needed all these pieces of my heart” over a skipping beat punctuated with claps—with this flippant dismissal of her heartbreak, Shygirl both acknowledges her vulnerability and overcomes it, tinging her distinctly softer, lighter vocals with a hint of bitterness. As the beat kicks in, her barbed confidence only grows. “Don’t waste your time or your energy,” Shygirl airly proclaims; “I’m the best I’ve ever been or I’ll ever be.” Still, by the end of the track, she finds herself craving “mr useless” after all: “promise me you’re gonna call,” she implores.

Though the lyrical themes of Club Shy stay consistent with Shygirl’s past work, the star of the EP is in the quality of her vocals, rather than lyricism. Like Swedish pop songwriters of the 90s and early 2000s, Shygirl hones in particularly on her vocal delivery to convey feeling. “With the cadence of my voice, I tend to incorporate my breath into everything. The breathing is just as important as the words. I like to inject that reality into the work and hit a sweet space between escapism and reality,” she said in Mixmag. The combination of raw vocal emotion and instrumentals that vibrate throughout the body is key to the visceral experience of listening to Shygirl’s music. This technique shines particularly on “mute” (with Lolo Zouaï), as the track’s hypnotic, looping synths are grounded in a distinct sense of frustration. Caught between an exhale and a groan, Shygirl’s repeated “huh?” (as in, “huh? What did you say?”) clearly illustrates her disdain for boys who “think they’re cute” blowing up her phone. The high, nasal autotune on Shygirl’s voice gives it an eeriness that contrasts with Zouaï’s silky smooth vocals—barely rising above a whisper, Zouaï’s disinterest is blissful and self-assured. The sonic dichotomy, paired with discordant synths, results in a track that’s both haunting and enticing, proving Shygirl’s ability to create soundscapes that are more than uncomplicated dancefloor fodder.

Collaborators are present on every track of Club Shy, and “4eva” is one of the most outstanding, as Shygirl and Empress Of amplify each other’s oozing sensuality The pulsating synths conjure the alluring claustrophobia of dark club corners, rather than the anthemic openness of the dancefloor that comes through in tracks like “thicc.” Shygirl’s staccato delivery of lines like “body to body, hit me, babe” is reminiscent of the precise and powerful emcees in the ballroom scene, and the track features classic house music signatures that define ballroom music. Shygirl has highlighted her admiration of Black queer art: “Even growing up, being mixed race and being raised mainly by my white family, it’s been a journey and very hard finding the spaces that I feel welcomed by. And the Black queer community, especially, has been one that’s always welcomed me with open arms,” she said in Mixmag. While not an emcee like Shygirl, Empress Of brings the same irresistible attitude that characterizes ballroom music to her bilingual English and Spanish verse, tantalizingly offering, “Yeah, I see you stare / You want it, you want it, I’ll show you where.” Together, the two revel in their desirability, but the moment doesn’t feel performative solely for a partner’s pleasure—like so much of Shygirl’s music, “4eva” captures the intoxicating feeling of being wanted to harness a self-confidence that is free from external validation. 

Short and sweet, Club Shy brings together everything that Shygirl does best—innovative and danceable beats, seductive lyricism, and enrapturing vocals make the EP just as pleasurable on the fortieth listen as it was on the first. While dance music might be derided as purely indulgent, Shygirl’s ties to the Black queer community and the sexual politics that course through her music assert that physical liberation can unlock new ways of relating to others and ourselves. Perhaps, we should all take a trip to Club Shy. 

Isabel Shepherd
Isabel is a senior in the college studying sociology, English, and art history. She loves trying new hobbies, but she isn’t very good at keeping them.

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