Shygirl is cool, so cool that on her latest single, she casts herself as Cleopatra, even breezily abridging the Egyptian queen’s name into a slick, zippy “Cleo.” On her latest single, the London singer is a legend, a myth, an image on the screen. For the past three years, she has made her name rapping bold, freaky lines over grimy beats. But this time, she replaces fucking and flesh with a more abstracted, glitzy fantasy.
“Cleo” conjures the grandeur of the cinema with its orchestral opening, the swelling and falling of violins. The beat doesn’t drop until well over a minute in. With production courtesy of Jakwob and Sega Bodega, the track’s symphonic entrance indicates larger ambition, but its stale house beat and tempered hooks make it feel like a Chromatica reject. The song’s highlight comes on the third verse, where Shygirl’s sharper rapping adds texture. But all too quickly, she falls away, and eventually the track retreats back to its perfectly measured dance-pop. At close to four minutes, “Cleo” is one of Shygirl’s longest tracks to date, but still you wish there were more of her to be found.