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Mahalia simultaneously builds on the legacies of British soul and American neo-soul with finely rendered material full of deeply introspective and relatable insights. The singer/songwriter made her recorded debut in her early teens, by which point she had already attracted major-label interest. She launched her career with the Asylum label, where she issued the albums Diary of Me (2016) and the considerably more individualistic Love and Compromise (2019), the latter a Top 30 album in her native U.K. Since releasing the Isolation Tapes EP (2020), Mahalia has moved to Warner Music, the outlet for the Letter to Ur Ex EP (2022) and the airy and frank album IRL (2023).
A native of Leicestershire, Mahalia Burkmar is the daughter of musicians — her mother was in Colourbox circa the 4AD group’s 1982 debut, and her father toured with Erasure — and started writing songs and playing the guitar as a preteen. Burkmar drew the interest of major record labels by the age of 13 and released her first collection, the independent Head Space EP, in mid-2012. After taking some time to finish school and hone her sound, Mahalia re-emerged in 2015 on Rudimental’s single “We the Generation” and performed with the group on Later…With Jools Holland. Her second EP, Never Change, followed that December and was her debut for major-label Asylum.
In 2016, Burkmar had an acting role in the U.K. crime film Brotherhood and released her first full-length project, Diary of Me. She followed it in 2017 with appearances on festival stages in the U.K. and a series of collaborative singles, including “Hold On” featuring Buddy, the Maths Time Joy-produced “No Pressure,” and in early 2018, “Proud of Me” featuring Little Simz. Following the singles “No Reply,” “Water,” and “I Wish I Missed My Ex,” Mahalia issued the five-song Seasons EP in late 2018. “Do Not Disturb” and “Grateful,” along with the number 46 U.K. hit “Simmer,” followed in early to mid-2019, before the release of her debut album, Love and Compromise, that July. Featuring production from DJ Dahi and Sounwave, the LP matched Mahalia’s buttery vocals with a shifting set of romance-led lyrics and peaked on the U.K. album chart at number 28.
In 2020, Mahalia was featured beside Ty Dolla $ign on Jacob Collier’s “All I Need” and released Isolation Tapes, a three-track EP. Mahalia kicked off 2021 with the Rico Nasty collaboration “Jealous” and later teamed up with AJ Tracey for the buoyant “Roadside.” A fifth EP, Letter to Ur Ex, arrived in May 2022. A year later, “Terms and Conditions” was released as the lead single from Mahalia’s forthcoming full-length, which arrived in the following July under the title IRL. The album’s appeal to a wider group of listeners was reflected in a mix of guest collaborators who ranged from JoJo and Joyce Wrice to Stormzy and Kojey Radical. ~ Marcy Donelson & Andy Kellman