While they are damn inspiring, you don't have to be a civil rights leader or cancer survivor to be featured in this series. Sometimes an artist possesses so much raw talent that they just can't be ignored. Such is the case with Mahalia, the English vocalist making waves for her velvety pipes and proclivity for wearing her heart on her sleeve with every song she releases.
Let's start with her song "Sober." The track is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a brash middle-finger to an ex-boyfriend camouflaged in a silky R&B backbone. When singing about such a topic, lots of artists tend to sound whiny and even petulant, but Mahalia does it with such a phlegmatic stoicism that you know she's telling the truth when she croons "Though I know it's no ones fault / If I've learned anything at all / With us, no matter how I add it up / One plus one is none." The video is just as brilliant as the single, channeling throwback 90's R&B vibes with its dark, kaleidoscopic hues and angsty zoom-ins. It's like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air meets Brandy's "I Wanna Be Down" video, plus irritatingly relatable allusions to drunk-texting and the nauseating regret that follows.
What makes Mahalia so special is the range of genres her voice applies to. You could hear pop, soul, R&B, electronic, or a hodgepodge of all the above, and her voice would still fit perfectly, like the final piece of a Jackson Pollock puzzle. In a day and age where singers pigeonhole themselves into one genre with the hopes of dominating it, this chick has the audacity to branch out and influence each one she touches. One day she's singing dreamily as she adroitly plucks along to her acoustic ballad "Marry Me," the next she's belting out soul serenaded by the illustrious horns of Rudimental.
Here's the "are you kidding me?" moment – Mahalia started making music at the age of 12 before signing a major record deal a mere year later. That's right – she signed to Atlantic when she was 13-years-old, thanks in part to a serendipitous tweet from Ed Sheeran.
— Ed Sheeran (@edsheeran) July 9, 2012
However, don't go thinking she is some flash in the pan twerp that rode on the coattails of a fluky happenstance. Sheeran's tweet was spot on when he introduced the Twitterverse to the "amazing talent" of the young Mahalia, who, armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar and an oversized beanie, performed a stupefying stripped down version of her original song "Let The World See The Light." Everything is more fascinating in retrospect, and the clip serves as an arresting glimpse into the barebones talent of a truly gifted artist who is blossoming before our eyes.