“Battlefield inside my brain”: Sohodolls Premiere “Napoleon Baby,” a Song of Dreams, Drives, and the Seduction of Success

Sohodolls "Napoleon Baby" © 2024
Sohodolls "Napoleon Baby" © 2024
London’s Sohodolls explore the cost of unilaterally pursuing your dreams in “Napoleon Baby,” a hypnotic song of desires, drives, and the all-consuming seduction of success.
Stream: “Napoleon Baby” – Sohodolls




I wanted to write and be successful above all else. I swore I’d never give up. But never giving up can mean subjecting yourself to more bruising and more humiliation.

They say it’s a gift, but it feels like a curse controlling you,” Sohodolls’ Maya von Doll sings on her band’s latest single, reckoning with ambition, desire, her own dreams of success, and all that it’s cost her to relentlessly pursue those passions.

For many artists, there’s no such thing as “balance” between your work life and everything else – home, family, friends, recreation. Time is always sacred, and time spent not working on your music career – be it writing, recording, gigging, self-promoting, etc. – is time wasted. If you’re not giving it your all, then why bother? There are 100s, if not 1000s of other people waiting in that metaphorical line, who would happily give what you aren’t or weren’t willing to give, to take your place and make their own dreams of success come true.

This is clearly a false equivocation, but it’s a rule of thumb for far too many. So what are you willing to give up, to make your definition of “success” (maybe, or maybe not) come true? Sohodolls explore the cost of unilaterally pursuing your dreams in “Napoleon Baby,” a hypnotic song of desire and drive, loss and longing.

Seldom do artists confess to what their personal cost-benefit analysis actually looks like, but here, von Doll offers a revealing look at her real, lived pain – all while stars continue to shine in her eyes.

Napoleon Baby - Sohodolls
Napoleon Baby – Sohodolls
Don’t know when I took a hit to the head
I lost myself
I try to get up but I’m stuck in the beast
I need some help
In all this confusion I hear a gentle calling
No rhyme or reason
But it gets my nectar flowing
There’s a song in my heart burning bright
Beating out a rhythm
And it’s the only reason I survive

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Napoleon Baby,” Sohodolls’ dazzling fourth single of the year (out June 21, 2024 via Filthy Pretty). Following this year’s songs “What Kinda Love,” “Mother Wouldn’t Like It,” and “Queen of Spades,” “Napoleon Baby” offers drama wrapped in glitzy, pulsating electropop wrapping. Produced by Otabek Salamov (aka Needshes), it’s a provocative marriage of vulnerability and pop sensibilities; catchy and candid, deeply human yet equally entertaining. Sohodolls calls it their “pounding slow-disco floor-filler,” citing Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” Kate Bush’s “Running up That Hill” and Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” as inspirations for what is easily their most mainstream, and their most unfiltered, song in years.

Perhaps it’s the power of Maya von Doll’s confessional lyricism that pushes her performance, and that of bandmates Toni Sailor, Steven Weston, Matt Lord, and Paul Stone, to the limits and beyond. She holds nothing back in painting a dramatic portrait of a tortured artist, devoted to her pursuit and willing to sacrifice everything and anything to get there.

Oh-oh-oh
Battlefield inside my brain
Oh-oh-oh
Lovers and fighters look the same
Napoleon Baby
Oh look what you gave me

“The song is about the pursuit of ambition at all costs. I talk about what pursuing a music career has cost me – friendships, relationships and even the loss of better financial opportunities,” von Doll tells Atwood Magazine. “I wanted to write and be successful above all else. I swore I’d never give up. But never giving up can mean subjecting yourself to more bruising and more humiliation. This song is a reflection on that irrational wiring. That’s why I linked the track to ‘Napoleon’ because there’s been a historic suggestion (whether true or not) that his ambition and drive was born out of an inferiority complex. So, in the song I’m imagining success and I’m imagining thanking my inferiority complex for the art I’ve created.”

von Doll sugarcoats nothing as she conveys what it’s like inside her body and brain – to feel that allure, the call of a life singularly devoted to making and playing music, for as long as she can, to whomever will listen:

They say it’s a gift but it feels like a curse
Controlling you
You lose all your men and you’re far from your home
Your mind turns on you
In all this confusion I hear a gentle calling
No rhyme or reason
But it gets my nectar flowing
There’s a song in my heart burning bright
Beating out a rhythm
And it’s the only reason I survive

“When I was a young teen I heard a big global artist say while receiving his lifetime award, that ‘music is its own reward.’ It stuck with me,” von Doll recalls. “But when a couple of record deals didn’t work out and after re-committing over and over again to my music career, I added that ‘music is also its own punishment.’ It’s both what keeps me going and what gives me the most pain.”

“I do sometimes wonder if I would be happier now if I had better nurtured my relationships (friends, family or partners) and not been so single-minded about music. I think I trusted music more than I trusted people and myself, and so I invested more in it. However it is incredibly lonely when you have a creative block – that’s when you realise how little else there is in your life! But then the creative cycle starts up again, usually from heart-break or depression and you get back on it with the new scars and a little less fire.'”

Oh-oh-oh
Battlefield inside my brain
Oh-oh-oh
Lovers and fighters look the same
Napoleon Baby
Oh look what you gave me

Likening herself to Napoleon – a man described as a visionary, a hero, and a tyrant, often in the same breath – von Doll gently unpacks her deleterious pursuit, reflecting on how much it’s negatively impacted her. But she’s also unapologetic about her actions, as is her right: “Je ne suis pas folle. Je sais juste ca comment survivre, alors on y va,” she sings in the track’s all-consuming outro, employing her French to wondrous, tantalizing effect. Her words, roughly translated, read, “I am not crazy. I just know how to survive, so let’s go.”

In other words, Sohodolls aren’t stopping anytime soon. She may have lost loved ones and fallen out with friends, but these are the sacrifices Maya von Doll made to get to where she is today. Regrets? She’s had a few; but then again, too few to mention.

Stream “Napoleon Baby” exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

‘Je ne suis pas folle
Je sais juste ca
Comment survivre
Alors on y va

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Stream: “Napoleon Baby” – Sohodolls



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Napoleon Baby - Sohodolls

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