The past 18 months have been some of the strangest in recent memory. Around the globe, we have all had to adapt our lives to meet the unpredictable needs of the moment. Musicians are not immune to the ups and downs of current events, and thankfully for us, MEI has given voice to these unprecedented tribulations. The South London artist has released a new EP aptly titled The Hard Way Around the Sun, a powerful five-track effort that details her challenging personal journey over the past year with help from an all-female team of musicians and producers. The project is not only an emotional statement that will resonate with listeners, it is a significant step forward in the career of an artist whose sound continues to grow with each new release.
The opening track “See Us” was written in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, which MEI could not attend because of a severe case of COVID-19. In an email to EARMILK, she writes about the track, “I felt so powerless and heartbroken… I realized that everyone needs to use their skills/gifts as weapons to fight for racial equality. I can use my pen, so that’s what I did.” With a head-nodding beat from production duo A Good Friend, the track highlights the indispensible value of black women. The follow-up “Death to the Old Self” was also written in the context of the protests and features a gritty, driving drumbeat with a captivating rap verse from MEI.
“Write to You” brings about a change in mood as MEI grapples with a broken relationship through the use of striking melodies and tasteful harmonies. At the song’s core is a persistent sidechained organ, which she explains by saying it “felt like the way your head spins when you’re going through a breakup and at the time it feels relentless, so I kept that going throughout the track.” Along with her vulnerable vocals, the organ gives the track a palpable human element.
Addressing her health scare more directly, “Let Dusk Welcome Me” acts as a soundtrack for MEI’s first emergence from home after battling and defeating the virus. The song has an undeniably hopeful energy through her moving lyrics, the pulsing drums, and a celestial horn arrangement from Cassie Kinoshi.
MEI’s raw emotions are on full display on the closer “Happy Man” as she laments and finds peace in a relationship coming to a close. While her impassioned vocals draw one’s attention, the track is taken to new heights through some heavenly backing vocals from Lydia Clowes and Sans Soucis. The repeating phrase in the hooks, “there’s nothing we can do, and it’s alright” is both a healthy summation of a relationship that has run its course as well as perhaps a message to any of us who have gone through unparalleled adversity over the past year. With the words echoing in our ears and the music swelling in the climactic moments of the EP, we are reminded of the incredible healing power of music, especially when delivered by someone with as much emotional integrity and musical tact as MEI.
The Hard Way Around The Sun is available to stream or download here.