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Mahalia's "IRL" & Album Review: “Ready”, “In My Bag”, “Terms and Conditions”, “In My Head” & Others

Updated: 4 days ago

Raised in Leicester, England; Mahalia Burkmar AKA Mahalia, was born into a family of musicians, a Jamaican mother to the '80s group Colourbox and British-Irish father singer and guitarist with Erasure. Signed to Warner Music's Asylum Records at the young age of 13, in an interview she was asked where she gets her discipline from, she shared her mum.

“When I was younger, I used to sing on stage with my eyes closed and my mum would literally walk over to me and tell me to open your eyes because once you close them, you disconnect from your audience immediately.”

Working very heard in lunching her music career, well into 2012 she released an EP album-"Head Space", four track list include: "Let The World See The Light", "Mardy Bum", "If You're In Love and Ride". Further more, in to 2016, another EP was produced called "Never Change", a four track list: "Never Change", "Borrowers", "Up" and "Maisie".

Her third emotional album "Diary Of Me", the eleven song list highlights: 17, Silly Girl, Never Change, Mahalia, Rollercoaster, I Remember, Back up Plan, Marry Me, Independence Day, Begin Again and Rollercoaster (Acoustic).

“I signed young and thought this must be it,” she tells a reporter from Evening Standard, after joining Asylum Records, a subsidiary of Warner and home of Ed Sheeran, Rudimental and Charli XCX, in her early teens. “I was this kid who thought that was the endgame.”

When I was writing Diary of Me, I thought it was gonna be an album, and then we kind of collectively decided to make it a project. It’s weird because once you take off the [label] “album,” it’s not scary.

Her sense of self-worth can be witnessed throughout Mahalia's artistic path, from when she began releasing acoustic songs in her late teens to when she decided to go to London just before she turned 18. For over a year, she crashed with friends, sleeping in spare rooms or on their sofas as she struggled to cope with the culture shock of living and performing music in such a fast-paced and costly metropolis.

“I definitely wasn’t doing much. I was doing a few live shows and writing but I wasn’t putting that much out.”
“I remember all my family just getting so excited about how the track was doing on YouTube, messaging me every time it hit a new milestone."

She wrote her breakout single 'Sober' shortly after arriving to Leicester in 2017, the music that turned everything on its head. After a year of feeling as though she did not know what she was doing, the response to 'Sober' dispelled any questions about whether she was on the right track. The singer went viral with 41 million views on a COLOURS session, toured internationally as both a support act and a headline act, collaborated with well-known artists such as Burna Boy, Ella Mai, and Little Simz, and released her long-awaited debut album Love and Compromise.

“It was the kick up the arse that I needed in order to move forwards.”

Launched July 2017, produced by Maths Time Joy and written by Jessy Rose, Maths Time Joy and Mahalia. The song was inspired by Mahalia's split with a guy. She continuously drunk called him after a night of partying after breaking up with him. She chose to write a song instead of calling him one night. That night gave birth to this song.

The song is authored by Mahalia from the perspective of waking up the next morning. With her serious thoughts, she recognizes that their relationship would not culminate in a relationship, despite the fact that she felt the couple had something.

The debut album Love and Compromise, a thirteen track list include the following singles: Hide Out, I Wish I Missed My Ex, Simmer (Ft. Burna Boy), Good Company (Ft. Terrace Martin), What Am I?, Regular People (Ft. Hamzaa & Lucky Daye), Karma, He's Mine, What You Did (Ft. Ella Mai), Do not Disturb, Richie, Consistency and Square 1. The Leicestershire native describes the soulful album as a tracing of the journey she was taking to figure out love and life, inspired by legend Eartha Kitt’s unwavering views on relationships and compromise.

“My mum played the video for me and I remember being so in awe because I had never heard a woman, particularly one in the public eye, talk like that. She questioned the interviewer about why she should have to compromise for a man and it played such a big part in my understanding of myself, my growth and loss of naivety."

A huge inspiration behind the album is a clip of Eartha Kitt in an interview, and she was talking about love and compromise. I was like, “This clip inspired me. I want to make an album dedicated to this,” So, that’s what I did. … I remember [bringing up the title] “Compromising” or saying that maybe we should call it “Never Compromising.” But [my friends] all felt a little bit too negative. And then one of my friends texted me and said, “You should call it Love and Compromise.” I remember telling my parents, and we were all just like, “Yeah, that’s it.”

Looking back, by the age of 21, Mahalia had gathered an impressive list of features and awards under her belt, to mention she was nominated for the 2020 BRITs Best Female Solo Artist Award. Alongside a feature on up-and-coming fellow Midlands rapper Pa Salieu’s in a song 'Energy' part of a fifteen track album ‘Send Them To Coventry’: In Headie One’s #1 album ‘Edna’, Mahalia sang in the track Youme. Mahalia also received a GRAMMY nomination for ‘All I Need’. With Jacob Collier’s single, she features alongside US rapper, Ty Dolla $ign. In addition, Mahalia snapped up three MOBO nominations for Best Female Act, Best R&B/Soul Act and Album Of The Year for Love and Compromise, winning in the first two categories. Besides the awards and nominations, it’s also been a year of deep personal growth, one that Mahalia describes as a real rollercoaster in her personal and professional life.

During the pandemic, by May, 1st 2020, she released an EP entitled "The Isolation Tapes". The tree track list include "BRB", "Plastic Plants" and "Too Nice". Carrying the singer’s signature blend of soulful lyrics and eclectic sounds, her new project soothed all those finding themselves in COVID-enforced lockdown, while offering a glimpse of some of the music that didn’t make it onto her debut album because she simply hadn’t yet found a way to tell those stories.

“I have a lot of music that I really care about, all real stories and I want people to hear them. I don’t feel like it should always be an album, sometimes you should just let people hear what you’re feeling.”

The three-track EP is an amalgamation of feelings of love, rejection and searching across three different relationships: songs that the artist had struggled to put words to until this year.

‘Too Nice’ paints the picture of an 18-year-old woman in throes of going-out club culture and meeting stush men, ‘Plastic Plants’ sees an older Mahalia at 20 searching out a love that isn’t shallow or fake, while ‘BRB’ explores the heartache of travelling and being temporarily separated from that new-found love.

“By September, I think I was just tired - tired of being inside and tired of not being able to do what I do while going through a break up. It was a confusing time.” It was also a time that has caused her to reflect on the relationships around her and, in turn, has spurned even more music.

After the lifting of the first lockdown, she found herself able to head to the studio on a regular basis.

“My creative juices started flowing and it must’ve taken about a month of being in the studio but I found my rhythm; I was going in and coming out with concepts, ideas and full songs that I was in love with.”

On a track called - ‘Jealous’, released feb, 17, 2021, she features US rapper Rico Nasty. The upbeat melody provides an inversion of how men and women are stereotypically conditioned to speak about themselves and what they should and should not feel. The listener is taken on a journey, one that pushes them throughout, with the sounds of a guitar, underlying trap, and Mahalia's characteristic soulful tone. Directed by Melody Marker, the music video references the 1998 US crime movie, 'Belly'.

“I made Jealous on a sunny day at the end of Summer last year. I was sat in the studio with Cadenza and Miraa May getting some stuff off my chest from the past few weeks. Jealous was born pretty fast after chatting. It was a weird time… I was dealing with friends being super unsupportive about decisions I was making and I was struggling with navigating that. I’m really proud and excited about what came out in this song and I hope people love it in the same way we did when we wrote it. Rico Nasty is a badass and one of my favorite artists so getting her to feature was a huge moment for me!” – Mahalia says of the collaboration.

“I really wanted to capture how jealous and unsupportive friends can break your heart, more than any romantic relationship.”
“We’re all fixated on how we can make ourselves better during and after this period of time but I want people to also reminisce on lovely or painful situations they’ve lived through and how they’ve helped shape the people they are now."

Released a May 20, 2022, an album named "Letter To Your Ex" is a five numbered track list: "Letter To Your Ex", "In The Club", "Forever", "Whatever Simon Says" and "Letter To Your Next". touch on her love for romanticism and and the challenges that come with heartbreak. While Mahalia delves deeply into her own personal experiences with love, she also offers guidance to other women who may be going through similar issues.

Finally we come to her recent album, "IRL", released July 14, 2023, a thirteen track list of soulful music. Mahalia explains that ‘IRL’ is a successful expression of this aspiration, with a collection of songs composed in an honest, straightforward manner, emphasizing everything from the self-assurance to the various sets of emotions. Songs include: “Ready”, “In My Bag”, “Terms and Conditions”, “In My Head” feat. Joyce Wrice, “Cheat” feat. JoJo, “November” feat. Stormzy, “Hey Stranger”, “Isn’t It Strange”, “It’s Not Me, It’s You” feat. Destin Conrad, “Wassup” feat. Kojey Radical, “Lose Lose”, “Goodbyes” and “IRL”.

"Ready" the first track, comes together in shimmering arrangements that make her voice sound like she's singing in a dream. From now on, she knows she can take whatever comes her way and nobody can take that away from her, so she's just listening to her own voice. It's about trying to get a head start while she's going through all the stuff and working on this album. She's talking about how the industry is changing and how it's not just about making music, but having a social media presence that sells.

She sings "From now on I know I can take what comes my way / And nobody can take that from me / I'm listening to my own voice only, only, oh / Over time people gonna try come and take my place / But nobody can take that from me / 'Cause I gave you the music your soul needs Oh, yeah...................... / Take your time, you never know / You put in work, you gon' see it grow / There's gon' be highs, there's gon' be lows / But it all makes sense when you see the show / What you feel inside, give it to the world / And when they take you in, ain't a better feeling, no / Forget the guys who don't make you feel at home / They think they're higher, but what they really doing though?.".......Written by Benjamin Hart, Jordan Reid, Mahalia Burkmar and Max Pope.

In an interview with GQ, she share "After her lockdown breakup, Mahalia started dating her current partner Ben Hart, also a musician. She says IRL turned out as well as it did because they were working so closely together, writing songs as a pair. “It tapped into some things that felt really honest for me,” she says. “I just felt really comfortable talking about this stuff with him.”
“There’s a line in that song that is my favorite line I’ve ever written,” she adds. “Trying to stay stable is hard when I’m trying to keep my seat at the table’.

“This song is one of my favorites so far. ‘Bag Of You’ is all about that sweet spot in a relationship when everything is just lovely, where the idea of being without that person – even just for a second – is too much to bear,” Mahalia said. “I love everything about this record. It’s definitely the start of what’s to come next year.”

The third track "Terms And Conditions", Mahalia talks about what she wants from a guy in the future. It's actually pretty straightforward, so there's no room for any misunderstandings. The lyrics go like this "If you want my love / Then let’s discuss / The man you’re required to be / If you tell me lies / You get three strikes / There’s no coming back, boy please / If you look at her / Consider bridges burned / You could call it petty but see / If you want the position / These are my terms and conditions,” Mahalia chants in the irresistibly catchy chorus."

“I’m quite emotional about this release finally being everybody else’s! It’s almost like a love letter to myself whilst being a warning to others,” shares Mahalia.
“It’s all about setting boundaries and deciding what things I would no longer compromise on. I made this song with my wonderful friend and artist, Raye and two of my favorite producers – The Elements. This record is just the first taste from my upcoming second album and I can’t wait to see if people like it!”

"In My Head" featuring Joyce Wrice, an American singer, the lyrics go, "I know it wasn't worth it, but I did it anyway / I couldn't say the words to your face / So I wrote 'em down instead / I wanna remember it as it was (As it was) / And forget about what it's been, yeah, yeah / And keep that memory inside of my head.............[Chorus: Mahalia & Joyce Wrice] I wanna leave it alone, but I don't know if I can (I wanna leave it alone) / If only you had never done wrong, you could always be right in my head / I wanna leave it alone, I don't know if I can (I wanna leave it alone) / If only I was where you belong, you could always stay right in my head...... "

The reference that [London producer and DJ] JD. Reid and I had down for this one was Drake’s 2011 track] “Marvins Room”. There’s something about the soft [drum] beat of this track that reminds me of that Take Care-era Drake. I wrote this with my boyfriend [Ben Hart] and it was really easy as we both rooted this in our past relationships—when you’re with someone you desperately want to be with but you just can’t anymore. This is about making that tough decision to leave.
I can’t quite believe this one is real. I have been a fan of JoJo for as long as I can remember so having her on this record really is a dream come true for me. “I love watching people come together through hardship and everything about this song represents that. For me, it is a song about strength, power, and letting go.

Mahalia’s song “Cheat” was a remix with Jojo. Jojo is a soul singer who rose to fame in the early ‘90s with the release of her single “Leave" (Get Out). Produced by JD Reid and Spencer Stewart, the style of the video for “cheat” is reminiscent of “90s music”. You can see eye slights, flip phones in the video and jelled-up hair in the video. Also written by Jojo, Spencer Stewart, MNEK and Ryan Ashley.

“This is the only record I've ever put out that I haven't written. And, initially, I was fearful of putting it out [as a single]. I definitely didn't want to tell my parents, who are both songwriters and have always taken huge pride in the fact that I write my own music. But it was nice for me to let go of my stubbornness and allow others to create for me. This was written by [London singer-songwriter] Ryan Ashley and MNEK, who I've known since I was about 14. When I played [his reference track], I was just obsessed with it. I could not get the song out of my head, and it just felt like the perfect addition to this pool of music.”

Another big name in the mix is Stormzy, a big time British rapper, singer, songwriter, philanthropist and publisher. Government name-Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr, the 29 year old talent won recognition in UK's underground music scene via the "Wicked Skengman" freestyle series. In the song, he helps Mahalia glide in bringing to life the soulful love song 'November' onto the album. Released July 14, 2023, this track was written by Mahalia, Max Pope, Benjamin Hart , JD Reid and Stormzy.

[Pre-Chorus: Mahalia, Mahalia & Stormzy] I can offer you my word (Offer you) / I'll love you even if you hurt me, and you might, yeah, you might / I'll keep a picture of you in my purse (In my purse) / In case you leave me on this earth ' cause you might, yeah, you might

[Chorus: Mahalia & Stormzy] I'll be right there till the flame turns to an amber /

I'll be right there until you can't remember / How we mеt that winter night back in November (Yеah) / I'll be right there, I'll be right there forever (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh)

[Verse 2: Stormzy & Mahalia] I'm in love (I'm in love), I'll admit it / This feeling runs deep in my soul / And they said we wouldn't last (Wouldn't last) / But we did it (Yeah, we did it, babe) / You're my angel, your light guides me home

“It didn’t feel right to not have a British artist featured on the album as well, because everyone thinks I’m American,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve loved Stormzy forever and he’s also become like a big brother to me. He’s always been a champion for what I do and vice versa. I asked him because he’s been in his singing bag lately, so to send Stormzy a classic love song wedding song was pretty nice.”

'Hey Stranger'......This one’s very personal. I literally wrote this on my bed—about people that hit you up every few months just to say, ‘Hey stranger.’ There was a guy, I suppose he was my high school sweetheart, and for years after we left school, every few months he would message me just that. It became this ongoing joke. Each time he’d do it, I would feel this flutter in my stomach because we were the two kids that never got to be together. This is a song that I should have written years ago, because that’s when it all happened. But I feel like I never knew how to write it, as he was always quite a special person for me. So this is the right time to get it out.

'Isn't It Strange'.......One day I said to my therapist, ‘I still don’t know how I got here.’ I was this kid who grew up in a tiny town [in Leicestershire], who used to go to the park on Fridays and sip on a bottle of Glen’s [vodka] with my mates, smoke roll-ups and watch the football. When my friends would finish work, we’d hang out in the Midland pub and sink pints. I was a really normal kid. Sometimes being in a city like London, going to expensive restaurants and big events, drinking nice cocktails…all of that stuff, it just feels so far removed from where I’m from and how I grew up. Writing this track made me really think about how being this person now instead of that person really makes me feel.

In an interview with Dork......“One thing that I hope people feel from me that I’ve always loved doing is trying to put moments of comedy in my songs,” she says excitedly before offering the example of album highlight ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’, which features a welcome shout out for classic classroom game Heads Down, Thumbs Up as she sings about her crush hopefully picking her. “That’s my favorite line!” she cries.
“That song is my favorite because of that first verse. If you really get it or you read it, not to blow my own trumpet, but it’s a really intelligent but funny verse. The reference to playing Kiss Chase in the playground. With the Heads Down, Thumbs Up thing, if I had a crush and he was the runner, he had to pick my thumb because if he didn’t, it would be the end of the world.
As soon as I wrote this record, I knew this is the one I wanted to ask Destin (Destin Conrad) to be on. The first time time that I came across him was actually on [defunct video platform] Vine, back when I was in sixth form. He was a famous Viner, I guess. He posted a little bit of him singing online, and everybody went crazy for it. After that he went quiet. I became completely obsessed in lockdown when he put out his debut EP [in 2021], COLORWAY. This track feels much more in the kind of traditional R&B world than stuff here, and I just knew he was going to ride it exactly how I wanted.

''Wassup' track features Kojey Radical, a 30-year-old British music artist and creative director , government name Kwadwo Adu Genfi Amponsah. His sound is a mix of hip-hop and alternative rap. He's been nominated for the MOBO Awards six times since 2018, including for Best Newcomer, and he performed at both the 2020 and 2022 ceremonies.

The song Wassup is sampled from the 1995 track Candy Rain by Soul For Real.

'Wassup'....I can just hear it blasting over the speakers at the barbecue. It’s a song that makes me feel quite happy, even though the subject matter is essentially me saying to a guy, ‘If you don’t fix stuff, I’m going to let every man in this room say hello to me!’

'Lose Lose'....I just find this song really sad. I’ve always written break-up songs, or sad songs because a situation hasn’t ended in the way I want it to. But going through this process with a partner means different topics and different stories. This track is about questioning if we we’re going to stay together. We actually wrote half of it together, and I finished the rest on my own. Which I probably needed to do so that I could get out everything that I wanted to say.

She starts ......Just a thing that you leave / Unless you didn't mean it / Say what you mean / I'll be there if you provide that for me / You don't need to be sad or sorry / I need an answer, I'm right here / I need it, I'm dyin', baby ......[Pre-Chorus].... Gave you the best of me /

And you got the better of me, baby / Took your insecurities and now they're mine (Uh, yeah) / Now they're minee / I was never shy but you made me wanna hide, baby /

To keep you on my side and that's not right, so.......[Chorus].....Why? Why? Why? /

Is this all I am to you? Is this all I am? A goodbye? / Why? Why? Why? / After everything we've been through / Is this how it ends? With a goodbye? .......[Verse 2]......Time doesn't heal all wounds / I don't care what they say (I don't care what they say) / When it's me and you, I can make my own rules / The rules that we play by (The rules that we play) /

But I won't let myself ever play the fool / If it's you, who I'm fooled by / So I need an answer / I need it, I'm dyin', baby......

“Whenever I’m talking about trauma, I’m usually laughing or smiling when talking about it.".....“It’s literally the song on the record that makes me jump and cry at the same time,” she says. “That was a painful song to write and I didn’t want it to feel painful to sing.”
'Goodbye'......This song started as an acoustic track, which made it feel desperately upsetting. So I said to JD, ‘How would you feel about turning it into a soft dance record? I’m not talking “oontz, oontz”, just give me something that makes me feel like I could move my head.’ Then we created that little moment where the guitar fades and it drops into the beat. It’s the reason why I love this song because that for me explains the ups and downs of heartbreak. One minute you’re crying. Next minute you’re dancing. Then you’re sipping a glass of wine. Next minute you’re dancing and then crying again.

Mahalia's therapy sessions became the source of inspiration for 'IRL'. After a while, one of the sessions turned into a song called 'Goodbyes'. It's a great example of Mahalia's ability to mix up different emotions. It starts off as a sweet berceuse rhythm, but then turns into a full-on danceable banger. She asks herself, "Why is this all I'm to you? Is that how it ends?"

This is a very reflective song. On my career, my family and everything that I want out of life. But I just didn’t know where it was going to fit on the record, because that’s not really what I usually talk about. So I held it back for a while. Then I made the Letter to Ur Ex EP [in 2022] and it didn’t fit, so I saved the track. Soon after, my manager hit me on WhatsApp asking if we could save ‘IRL’ for the album? And I replied, ‘Maybe we should we call the album IRL?


Note*subjects discussed are independently chosen by Steven Wick's editorial team.

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