Eartha Kitt once said, “A relationship is a relationship that has to be earned, not to compromise for.” British singer Mahalia echoes the same unwavering sentiments on her debut album, Love and Compromise.
Known for crafting bittersweet love songs, the 21-year-old turns her interest on her new set to vulnerable, female adolescents who she wants to blossom into self-actualized women.
“I’m trying to put out songs that I’d be happy for my baby cousin to hear,” Mahalia told The Times. “I’m not naive to the fact that girls of 15 know a lot more than their parents think they do, but I want to get a good message out to that lot because at their age songs can have a massive impact.”
With the emotional responses of young listeners resting on her conscious shoulders, Mahalia’s desire to take a leading stance as a post-breakup protagonist starts on “Hide Out,” the exposing opening track. Much like an interrogation room, she holds the bright light over her soon-to-be-ex as she uncovers damning evidence against him. The tempestuous production and a self-loving soundbite from Eartha Kitt’s 1982 documentary make it difficult for her ex-lover to plead innocent.
Mahalia is cool on her former boyfriend, but he hasn’t completely gotten the hint on “I Wish My Missed My Ex,” a savage synth-funk. Rather than overlook the heartache he has inflicted upon her, Mahalia dodges his late-night advances and confirms that she doesn’t want to reconnect with him on any level.
Mahalia makes use of a throbbing percussion and irresistible reggae vibrations on “Simmer” featuring Burna Boy. Channeling a seductive cadence, Mahalia notices the blistering passion her man boasts for their romance. Her only request is that he keeps his cool before she brings the heat.
On “Good Company,” a pressure-free moment, Mahalia takes a lesson in love from Monica’s hit song “The First Night.” She clarifies to her possibly eager suitor that she’s the only one who can give the green light on going to second (and third) base in their love affair. If he can’t get with Mahalia’s program, then he can leave — period.
On “What Am I,” Mahalia is left with unanswered, open-ended questions from her man who consistently leaves her walking blindly in love. The more her mellifluous vocals skip across this eccentric arrangement, the more inquisitive Mahalia gets.
The album’s surprise comes courtesy of R&B newcomers Lucky Daye and Hamzaa who are all comfortable with being “Regular People.” The atmosphere of this self-admirable collaboration is pure at heart. Their individualized cantabile tones are sustained by their own declarations on filtering out ambient social static that can wear one down.
What first sounds like eminent jazz lounge background music, later turns into a lush composition noted as “Karma” that is endorsed with syrupy vocals and cautions against escaping its unforgiving wrath; Shockingly, Mahalia’s the target of its undoing.
For much of Love and Compromise, Mahalia has kept it together. But on “He’s Mine,” she takes a clear shot at her man’s old fling who’s still asking around town about him.
Mahalia reels it back it in on her “What You Did,” her unforgiving duet with U.K. soul sister Ella Mai. Borrowing the inescapable melody from Cam’ron’s 2002 summer banger “Oh Boy,” the two avoid heated arguments about their man’s cheating ways and make a beeline for the door. The ladies’ decision to bounce was a fairly easy one, considering they “would not expect someone to stay around” if they let them down.
“Do Not Disturb,” the second taste of the album, Mahalia silences her no-good man who has taken her heart for granted one too many times. Whereas, “Richie” could be describing her trifling muse of the last half hour. Her attitude about love shifts after making the perfect “Consistency,” a finely detailed dance track with a prodding percussion.
Mahalia is reluctant to start anew on “Square 1,” the conclusive track. With her heart-wrenching affiliations set against dramatic piano notes, she solidly cements a strong argument for washing her hands with their disappointing relationship.
There’s no doubt Love and Compromise will resonate with listeners. While the complex love experiences on this album are Mahalia’s own, the mountain of drama that lies dormant throughout the meaningful material is (or has been) part of the lives of many fans.
The standout element of Love and Compromise is Mahalia’s willingness to share what has made her stronger during and after her run-ins with heartbreak. Her enlightening diary entries on regaining control over her emotions come from an authentic and genuine place. In an age where being fake is in, her imperfections will firmly set her apart from her young contemporaries.
Rating: 7.9 out of 10
Standout tracks: “Karma,” “Regular People,” and “Square 1”