When I first heard rumours late last year that the UK music industry was quietly losing its collective mind over a teenage girl, I was expecting the young lady in question to be more Justin She-ieber than Ed She-eran. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong – 13-year-old Mahalia is no tween-bait Disney star, but a genuinely impressive singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a stunning voice that belies her years. She’d be a promising new artist even if she were ten years older – that she’s so gifted at such a young age, and capable of such mature songwriting, is almost unbelievable.
Her self-penned debut “Let The World See The Light” is a great piece of folky acoustic soul, albeit one which, to my ears at least, takes some notable cues from man-of-the-moment Ed Sheeran (who happens to be one of Mahalia’s 500-odd Twitter followers and just this week tweeted the link to her Soundcloud page to his million plus fans).
The ginger wizard is the mainstream gold standard when it comes to acoustic soul with pop leanings, and although he famously started gigging when he was just a couple of years older than Mahalia is now, he had years to develop in front of crowds in the tens and away from the expectant glare of the music industry. Given the level of excitement around her, I’d expect her to sign to a major record label within the next few months, but a year or two building up a committed fanbase ala Sheeran would be time well spent.
Whilst some time developing as an artist wouldn’t go amiss, it’s startling how close to a finished article Mahalia really is. She looks confident on stage, competently playing instruments and singing in a sweet tone with impressive vocal control. To me her voice is one part Kate Nash (whatever you think of Nash, that enunciation is unmistakable) to two parts Corinne Bailey-Rae (they’ve both got voices characterised by overwhelming sweetness and warmth – all sugar and spice).
The songs, at least those that we’ve heard, are good. Without wanting to patronize, it’s astonishing that someone so young and presumably so relatively inexperienced can write about love and life in such an organic and fundamentally relatable way. The aforementioned “Let The World See The Light” is outstanding but even “Ever After,” a demo of which she posted online recently, is an enjoyable, organic song that will no doubt be finessed to perfection.
There’s no doubt that this young lady is destined for success – with the music industry buzzing around her already, a string of word-of-mouth building live dates to come in the next few months and a clear gap in the market for an artist at her age with her sound, it’s almost inevitable that Mahalia will taste major success sometime soon. Whilst her age will be the headline for the foreseeable future, it’s her bona fide talent that will make the story.