One for the Broken Hearts

The English singer-songwriter, Ella Mai, released her second album, Heart On My Sleeve, on May 6.

Ella Mai became a music sensation with her 2018 single, Boo’d Up. Adrienne Raquel

Summer has definitely started. Flowers of all colours are blooming, dandelions show up on your lawns and the leaves are fully grown. Most importantly, the outdoor tennis season is in full gear. That sure has everyone excited.

You can smell the change of season when you peek outside of your apartment. It is the case for when you go out in the streets for a late night stroll; when you only want to change your mind after a day of work.

Summer. Here we go again. A new chapter in one’s life. The beginning of a new season rhymes with new self, when we say goodbye to what has been bothering us throughout the dark winter months to welcome a new start that will add elements to our lifeline. You may be starting on a blank page without clear indication of where to go from here.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved summer music albums. I find them festive. The artists who release their album during summertime aren’t necessarily attempting to sell lots of CDs (well, not for the majority). They are trying to bring joy into the lives of people who need it- lift you up in a way. These albums are there when we need some music during these road trips, when the sun in shinning through the front glass and you are feeling the wind in your hair.

Summer albums have that little something that brings us a big smile. I remember clearly when Looking For Myself from the one and only Usher came out in June 2012. It was an up-beat album that got everyone dancing in clubs. For me, it was always playing when I was driving somewhere, mostly to the tennis club. It was a go-to album when our family went to the ocean, on the East Coast.

Music is that simple. It has the power to create long-lasting memories. We all have that one album where we remember exactly where we were when it came out. Music is our friend when we are desperately looking for a voice and someone to identify with.

It is clear to me that Heart On My Sleeve, Ella Mai’s new album, has the potential of helping so many. As we see the pandemic’s finish line, we tell ourselves that the world on the other side of the storm is brighter.

This pandemic has brought good moments as well as downfalls. It was a great period to be introspective and to realign our priorities. They were accompanied by sad periods where we lost someone who was dear to us or something that we took for granted. Like Ella Mai, we might have experienced one or multiple heartbreaks.

Ella Mai’s debut album (self-title album) released in 2018 was a breath of fresh air, but was nowhere near as personal as this new project. We all remember grooving to Boo’d Up in 2018 or admiring how the collaboration between Ella Mai and H.E.R on Gut Feeling was perfect.

On this new 15-track album, four years in the making, I have the feeling that we are getting to know the human behind the singer, what makes her happy and what made her lose hope in love (temporally I hope). In a recent interview, Mai explained that the whole process around this project was unlike anything she did in the past. From what she said, it was therapeutical to open up like this.

She admitted that it took time to release her second album, because she wanted something she was satisfied with. The English singer-songwriter wanted this project to be done properly, without precipitating things.

On How (featuring Roddy Ricch), we can sort of experience her cry for help, wondering how she could be betrayed by a senseless guy. It seems she gave her heart to someone and that he just took advantage of her vulnerability.

Leave You Alone is a unique addition to the whole thing. You will hear quickly that it is different than the other songs. It absolutely needed to be on this album; it fits perfectly.

At the start of the album, when track number 2 ends, we hear some wise words from Mary J. Blige. Those words partially explains the title of the album. She says: “ You got to guard your heart, guard your mind, guard your spirit. People take, take, take; that’s the world. People don’t want to give anything, but your heart is on your sleeve, you wear it out there and people will see it, and they play on it. ”

She comes back to speak bluntly at the end of the 50-minute project. She tells her that when you get your heart broken, it is because you deserve better, and that the other person doesn’t deserve your love.

Ella’s friend ends the song by saying not to be a victim. The message to remember here is not to get discouraged when you are out there showing your emotions to the world. You aren’t doing something wrong. Nevertheless, be careful not to get caught in the narcissists traps. They love this kind of energy.

The whole album is about this idea. Ella Mai is begging us to not be frightened to wear our heart of our sleeve. After all, you know what they say, it is better to have fallen after love than to have never loved. It may hurt, but the temporary pain is all worth it if you were able to feel something. That’s a little bit of the point on Break My Heart; where she knew that it didn’t work in the past but she still values the whole notion of love.

These lyrics are powerful: “ Cause if I had to choose who could break my heart, Baby, it’ll be you .” Even if something doesn’t work out, you would have given your best shot and tried something out of your comfort zone.

Despite that most of the songs are about heartbreak, some are positive and about the joyful parts of life, which balances the overall vibe well. What I personally love on there is that she didn’t feature the best-known artists in the industry even though she could’ve well. She opted for artists that could add a little spark to her songs. Her friend Lucky Daye, an R&B upcomer, was a great addition to A Mess.

Fallen Angel and Sink or Swim are my favourite songs on the album. They are not only catchy but also truthful. The transition between Fallen Angel and How is one of a kind. You are in the honeymoon phase on the first track but quickly goes into an angry state of mind on the second song.

This album is an awesome sophomore. In music, we often say that the debut album of an artist is better than their other projects. It isn’t the case here. Music always have to move forward and create new sounds. That’s what Ella Mai is doing on her new project, full of ups and downs.

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Olivier Pilon

Graduated with a masters degree in politics from the University of Quebec in Montreal. Human rights, LGBT issues, sports and music. Twitter: @OlivierPilon