Love and Compromise
Baring her heart on a series of confessional soul-pop tracks had already helped earn Mahalia Burkmar a BRIT nomination, and it’s also given her a reputation as a hopeless romantic—something she’s proud of. “I used to get asked in interviews a lot, always by guys, ‘Are you only ever going to write about love?’” she tells Apple Music. “I was always really confused by that comment, because I’m a 21-year-old girl. That's what I care about! Aside from music and my career, I’m thinking about dating, falling in love, and breakups.” Her debut album Love and Compromise takes us through these subjects, including chasing a taken man and learning lessons in love from her mum, all with candid intimacy. “It's my little diary of all the ways that I've weaved in and out of love and relationships.” Let the singer-songwriter take you on a tour of her debut, track by track.
“Hide Out” “The album is called Love and Compromise. To give you a little bit of backstory, when I was young my mum showed me this clip of an Eartha Kitt interview. The interviewer asks her, ‘Would you ever compromise in a relationship?’ I used to watch this video religiously of her laughing and saying, ‘Why would I ever compromise myself for a man?’ I wanted to use the clip here. She's actually saying compromising isn't just compromising yourself, sometimes it's compromising small things. I love her journey in those two minutes. It’s always resonated with me.”
“I Wish I Missed My Ex” “When we wrote this song, we all knew that it was cool. It's catchy, but no one knew that it was going to do what it did. It went absolutely nuts. When I do shows now, I always end on that song and it's just the funniest thing ever. You see all the girls jumping and shaking each other, they scream so loud. As artists, we're all waiting for someone to go, ‘You're amazing.’ And when you hear it, you don't feel it. Some artists do, and I'm really jealous of that way of thinking. I waited for so long to feel accepted by the industry.”
“Simmer” (feat. Burna Boy) “I wanted Burna on the song. But DMing Burna Boy as Mahalia was really difficult. After sliding into the DMs twice and not getting an answer, I turned to my manager. One of the perks of being a signed artist is that I can say, ‘I really want this. How do I make it happen?’ I'm so lucky to have that behind me. He's here, there, and everywhere, so trying to be in the same city as Burna Boy is the most difficult thing I've ever done, but I can commend him. He's amazing. I've never met somebody so hardworking. We did get to shoot the video together, which was great because we finally got to meet.”
“Good Company” “I'm not very good at writing slow jams. I could never write about me in the bedroom getting dirty with a guy, but writing this song, I was trying to say to girls it's totally fine to just be like, ‘I want you to come over and hang out with me.’ When I was young, the stories that I heard on the playground, they were always ahead of me in the realm of relationships. I was a slow grower. I wanted to say to girls, you can be in love with somebody and not feel like you have to go that extra mile. And if you want to, that’s also fine. It's about teaching girls you can move at your pace. At the end of the song I say, ‘Please stay around tonight, lay with me tonight.’ I like talking about the fact that you can do everything without doing everything. I say, ‘You think loving is touching.’ And it's all of the ideas of what love and loving somebody is. I feel most loved when my boyfriend runs me a bath and cooks dinner.”
“What Am I?” “I wrote this when I was talking to my now boyfriend. He was in the UK and I had to be in America for eight weeks. It was when we just met and he wasn't being open. We decided that we were going to do the session in our Airbnb: I'm lying on the sofa, I've got my pajamas on and a cushion on my face. My producer Felix talks to me while I'm having this breakdown and I'm like, ‘I'm so honest and open with my feelings that somebody who isn't, I don't know how to be in that situation.’ When I was writing it, I was thinking, ‘I wonder if you're thinking about me. I wonder if you're dreaming of me.’ It’s all just me asking, ‘Can you just tell me what I mean to you?’”
“Regular People” “For a long time, I was trying to work out how to put this song together. In my head I wanted ten different artists to feature on it. It didn't turn out that way. It turned out being really difficult to sort out. I brought on Hamzaa, who I love. I've got two completely different artists [the other is American singer Lucky Daye] from two different countries to try this.”
“Karma” “This song must be inspired by all the music that I listened to growing up, really beautiful jazzy slow jams. People like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and all the old records that my mum and dad played around the house. It's my best friend playing the saxophone. We grew up together, so it was really nice to have that connection. This track is me going, ‘I know I can't have you, but I'm going to get you.’ It’s my cheeky moment on the album. I'm not really that kind of girl, so writing this song I found fun."
“He’s Mine” “This is me having my Brandy and Monica moment. I was worried about this song in the beginning because it feels like the most pop record on the album. One thing that I've learned writing this album is not to be scared of the genre boundaries. I was wary that I'm being pinned as an R&B artist and I'm scared that if I put something else out everyone will go, ‘What you doing, you sellout.’ But as I was making the album, I realized that I could go in so many different directions.”
“What You Did” “We wrote this song, then right at the last minute—on day of delivery—I got a text from Ella Mai on Friday evening asking, ‘Is your album submitted?’ She said, ‘Aww, I would've loved to have been a part of it.’ When she said that to me, it was really interesting to me. I'd never had somebody...never even thought of an artist messaging me to say they would've loved to have been a part of my thing.”
“Do Not Disturb” “I was trying to touch on the fact that I needed space to do my own thing. I was saying to someone, ‘I don't believe you. I don't believe that you are with me, and because of that, I need you to leave me alone.’ Music is how I cut all of my relationships. I've had situations where we've had an argument and I've written the song, sent it to them, and not said anything else. I'm bad at articulating what I want to say in an argument, so I write music. With this song, I wrote it and didn’t even send it to him, I just put it out. We haven’t spoken since.”
“Richie” “A ‘wise fool’ means somebody who knows exactly what they're doing. A self-saboteur. 'Richie' is actually about somebody really close to me and their addiction and gambling. I've got a few friends, a couple of family members who have gambled, and I've watched how much that can affect people. I've just got so many friends who I've watched have crazy highs and they'll have these crazy lows. So I guess Richie is a character. Almost all of the people that I know who have ever had real issues in gambling or any kind of addiction are the most intelligent.”
“Consistency” “This is my favorite song on the album. It holds a whole different thing to everything else. It's about my mum. I was thinking about all the ways that I love and all the ways that I compromise. When I was a kid in Leicester, there used to be these underage club nights called Nappy Nights. It was a massive deal where all the girls got dressed up. It was our first time drinking Panda Pop [British kids’ soda] and dancing with boys. I finally pluck up the courage to ask my mum, ‘I want to go to this night.’ She said to me, ‘If you can go in the middle of all those people and dance around without looking at me, then you can go.’ Her point was that I had to be confident dancing on my own in a place full of unknown people before I could go out clubbing. It was a total compromise and got me to say, ‘I can do this.’”
“Square 1” “You know when you go all the way around the houses with someone? Then you go all the way back and you're like, ‘How am I back here?’ That’s why I ended on this song. The album follows the story of a relationship and how it unfolds. I go through the motions and I end it angry but also like, ‘Cool. Let’s leave it then.’ It's a journey.”