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

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

“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 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."

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

''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.

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?"


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

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