Mahalia exists beyond the realm of passing trends and fads. She is an artist bound to be a future-classic, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. The English R&B and neo-soul artist first struck gold in 2017 with her debut single “Sober,” which featured a then 18-year-old Mahalia delivering a velvety-smooth ballad that oozed an effortless cool years beyond her age. Now, years in the making, Mahalia’s debut album is here, and it would have been worth any wait.
Love and Compromise is an exceptional exploration of R&B and neo-soul from start to finish. Throughout its 13-track run, Mahalia time and time again illustrates that she is more than an excellent student of the genre’s generations-old traditions but one of its greatest purveyors. There is the standout single “I Wish I Missed My Ex,” which, with its refreshingly distinctive approach to the age-old “ex number” and infectious soundscape, carries all the bravado and timelessness of a young Ms. Lauryn Hill. Indeed, it is not just Ms. Lauryn Hill, but a host of inspirations, from Erykah Badu to Billie Holiday, that builds the foundation for Mahalia’s miraculous debut.
The noted love for both modern and classic R&B makes all the more sense given the album’s name and opening moments. “Hide Out” opens not with Mahalia’s empowering vocals but a sound clip of Eartha Kitt discussing the notion of love and compromise: “To compromise? What is compromise? Compromising for what? Compromising for what reason?” And whether Mahalia finds herself soaking in hot girl summer with Burna Boy in “Simmer” or enlisting Ella Mai for the confrontational “What You Did,” this idea of being unwilling to compromise for the sake of love is salient. Mahalia spoke on the release of her debut album, sharing in a heartfelt Instagram post,
“This is the most proud I have ever been in my life. I worked the hardest for this. Screamed until I couldn’t sing anymore. Laughed until my cheeks hurt. Emptied my heart out over and over again and with people that I love.”
Throughout Love and Compromise, Mahalia shows flashes off the same genius that likely inspired a young girl in Birmingham, England, to make music in the first place. What we have here is an uncompromising dose of neo-soul for a new generation.
Listen to Love and Compromise below:
For more on Mahalia, revisit our 2018 interview with the R&B visiionary here.