Sweet & Sour

Sweet & Sour

Alex Mali soars.

By Jeanine Kim

From the opening track to the stunner that is “Obviously”, Earhart alum Alex Mali’s (she/her) new EP Sweet & Sour is an emotional journey of a person in a fit of passion with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

The EP opens with the dangerous “No Limits,” a soft jam with background vocals that sound like a sing-song alarm. Her latest single, “Start It Up”, is a moody R&B track with soaring yet intimate vocals and a dance-ready beat. It’s both a warning and a plea to those who aren’t ready to give their all in a relationship. From the ruthlessly honest lyrics to the consistent Caribbean-tinged rhythm, “Start It Up” is the perfect cautionary track for a summer fling. As Alex Mali said about its release, "When I was writing 'Start It Up' I was thinking about the common struggle of being led on in relationships and I've always been someone who valued communication and honesty. So if you ain't shit, stay away!"

The music video for “Start It Up” gives a vintage filter to this classic story, intermixing shots of Alex Mali singing and grooving with images of the young couple falling in love. The home-video filmography as well as the dynamic visuals of Alex Mali and her backup dancers emphasize the vulnerable creative honesty of the track.

In a departure from her earlier work, every track on Alex Mali’s debut EP is a ballad of some sort — a musical confession tracing the course of passion from hopeful infatuation to jaded reflection. “Crazy Eyes” anchors the EP in the internal struggle of growing from pain.

The second single, “Faded” feat. Thutmose, is about that all-consuming, self-destructive need for someone or something. It’s a sultry, demanding track with a seesaw hook and unyielding beats, a sonic portrait of intoxication.

“Benjamin”, the first single and fifth track, equal parts condemns and celebrates the modern world’s obsession with money of all forms. Her lyrics sexualize and, in a way, glorify our capitalist codependency. As the description for the official lyric video says, “Though the track may seem as though Alex Mali is speaking of a male character, the lyrical content is based on the relationship between herself and her bands.”

The EP concludes with “Obviously”, bringing Mali’s signature thick, ambling vocals back to the forefront. A simple arrangement paired with generous background vocals give the track a pensive, Frank Ocean-esque feel.

The steady, heady rhythm of island instrumentals is a consistent theme throughout the EP, helping create a cohesive sonic voyage of love and strength, the honest experiences of a young woman navigating the modern world.

Listen to Sweet & Sour