It’s been three and a half years since I first crossed paths with a rising star by the name of Mahalia. The British r’n’b singer was performing at Leeds University and the place was packed to the rafters with young fans. Supporting the release of her debut album, “Love and Compromise”, there was something of cocksure swagger about the singer who, judging by the reaction from that crowd, was on the cusp of big things.

Well, here we are in 2023 as the singer returns with her new album, “IRL” and, while I have to admit I’ve not really followed her career since that show, I’m interested to see how that attitude has transferred to her studio work. Now, if the meandering, chilled “In My Bag”, is any indication, my second experience with the singer isn’t going to be as raucous as the first one.

Polished and slick, there is no doubt that there is some bite there, check out her snappy lyrics during “Cheat” where you hear the voice of someone you don’t want to cross. However, everything about “IRL” really misses some grit. Even when Mahalia teams up with grime superstar Stormzy on “November”, the end result tends to meander along. Now, there is nothing wrong with that but, when you’re listening to a collaboration with Stormzy, at some point you really do expect somebody to light the fuse.

That being said, it’s also hard to deny that Mahalia has an absolutely mesmerising voice. Soothing and sultry, the tones of her voice on tracks like the gentle “Hey Stranger” or some of more upbeat tracks like “Wassup” or “Goodbyes” are top quality and, while “IRL” might not be an album packed with attitude, it’s an album where Mahlia really shines as a singer.

So, like I said, having not really followed Mahalia since that sweatbox of a show in Leeds, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I expected more from this new collection. That being said, “IRL” is far from being a bad album with Mahalia’s wonderful voice alone enough to make sure this is an album that will have your attention from start to finish.

“IRL” is now available to order from the Official Mahalia Website

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