Malika Distills Her Sound in Acoustic Release of « Tension »

I took some time to heal, I got myself together

Now that you want me back I don’t need to act bitter

And I don’t want to hurt you either

That’s the difference between us

You out here with sh*t to prove

I was trying to get over you

I wasn’t happy but I was true

I was trying to get over you

Malika, T.G.O.Y.

Malika, an up and coming UK-based RnB artist, has just released an acoustic version of her breakout EP Tension. The project was originally released in September 2020, with four tracks exploring heartache in different forms.

It represented a re-centering of attention on Malika as a solo artist, for much of her work in the last few years has been collaborative: she lent her voice to the platinum hit Flowers by Nathan Dawe as well as Falling by Snakehips, and she lent her songwriting skills to various artists, not the least of which was Rita Ora.

Influenced by 90s greats like Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Destiny’s Child, and Christina Aguilera, Malika initially established herself in the music industry under the pseudonym Meleka. After graduating from the London Metropolitan University, she found success in 2009 with her funky house anthem Go (Now It’s Over Boy) remixed by Crazy Couzins.

Over a decade later, and she’s back on the scene. Her EP Tension garnered over 380,000 streams on Spotify in the first two months it was released. In an Instagram post, she wrote:

“The Tension EP wasn’t supposed to be a rebirth but if feels like it has turned out to be, so many people who lost contact with me and my music after Go are finding me again now and I am so excited.”

Malika

On Malika’s original EP, her rich vocals keep a classic RnB undercurrent to vibrant songs laced with electric elements and beats you can move to. Now, her new acoustic take on Tension pares the tracks down considerably.

The simplicity of the instrumentals give her acoustic alternatives greater profundity. The listener feels a deeper connection to Malika and her emotions as she sings over light piano notes and guitar strings, as opposed to when her voice competes with bass.

malika tension sounds so beautiful magazine

The beginning track Stranger Things is arguably stronger as acoustic. The original feels like something out of the 90s with some weird synth beats thrown in to make it current. However, in acoustic the song is timeless as Malika’s voice flows over the delicate plucking of a guitar.

This acoustic simplicity is more fitting for the subject matter of the song, the rawness and pain of which can be seen in lines like “I’m in love with a stranger / making love to a stranger / ‘cause you’re no longer / the man I used to love.”

Better As Friends in its original form holds appeal as an electro-RnB track, infused with heavy bass, dance-hall drum beats, and sound effects. In the acoustic version, however, Malika’s gorgeous voice is soft and sways with the piano keys in almost a whisper. Here the emphasis on her voice and the emotions it holds makes the song intense and a bit haunting. The conflict and pain she feels at hurting her friend by rejecting him is more palpable than in the original.

T.G.O.Y. (The Difference Between Us) is my personal favorite on the EP. While still a bop in the original version, in the acoustic alternative the groovy beat is contagious and the chorus captivating.

The echoing beginning with its varying pitches pulls the listener in, and it only gets better from there. Snapping fingers introduce an element of fun to the acoustic, and background vocals give the song even more of an attitude than it already had.

Malika sings “but obviously you couldn’t be the man that I want / the man that I need.” She is deliciously disdainful, pointing out the difference in her behavior after a break up compared to her ex’s— she was doing what she had to do to heal while he was just trying to find a replacement for her. At the end of the song she even laughs.

Statistically speaking, however, Thinking of Me (T.O.M.) is the most popular song from the album. The original version, swirling with shimmering synths, has a banger of a beat that is only complemented by Malika’s sonorous voice.

In the acoustic version, her voice is even more powerful and expressive as it soars over gentle strumming and melts into lovely nah nah nahs. Her lyrics tell a story and are shamelessly petty (“I hope you never get over our love”), but in a good way. It’s obvious her bite stems from a place of hurt, so the listener can’t help but approve.

“You should know I still wear your t-shirt in stormy weather

I hope our secret haunts you at night I hope it keeps you awake

Because you know no one can love you like me

I hope every night you spend alone you’re thinking of me

I hope every night you spend alone you’re dreaming of me.”

Malika, Thinking of Me

The acoustic Tension has a greater wow factor than the original, with clear instrumentals un-muddied by synth beats. It’s interesting to examine the EPs side by side as they are so similar and yet completely different. While preference for one album over the other might depend on one’s mood, it is clear that Malika’s incredible voice is the focus in her acoustic version.

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