Don’t ‘Trip’ on Ella Mai’s ‘Heart On My Sleeve’
Summer 2022 is already kicking off with hot new music for listeners of R&B and hip hop. On May 6, Ella Mai dropped her second album, Heart On My Sleeve. It’s receiving rave reviews from fans and critics alike, who praise her for avoiding the dreaded “sophomore slump,” an unsuccessful second album following an artist’s hit debut album.
The English R&B songstress, who is known for previous hits such as “Trip” and “Boo’d Up,” first announced the project on March 28 via Instagram. Guest appearances include Latto, Roddy Ricch, and Lucky Daye.
“I poured my whole heart into this album, more so than ever before,” Ella confessed. “I am overly excited for this sophomore journey.”
As per usual on her recordings, Ella’s vocal abilities are admirable on Heart On My Sleeve. Her silky, rich tone slides effortlessly between low and high registers and delivers impressive melismas without distracting from the lyrical content of the songs.
The 15-track album begins with the catchy, romantic “Trying,” on which Ella sings about catching feelings for a man who is trying hard to win her over. She doesn’t hesitate to get vulnerable on “Not Another Love Song,” confessing, “I don’t wanna mess this up / Could it be too much to say I’m in / Deep in, swimmin’ in my feelings.”
Atlanta rapper Latto features with a painfully honest verse on the hip-hop ballad “Didn’t Say,” exhibiting the power of collaborations between female R&B singers and female rappers. A couple tracks later, “Fallen Angel” samples the slick beat from “Chunk Up the Deuce” by Lil’ Keke and features a gospel choir in the song’s outro singing, “How could you turn? / How could you switch it up on me?” which flows seamlessly into the next song “How” featuring California rapper Roddy Ricch.
The album’s lead single, “DFMU” (“Don’t F*** Me Up”), is another tender moment for Ella lyrically, as she expresses her insecurities and fears of getting hurt in a new relationship. However, “Hide” is a ballad that showcases a more hopeful perspective on love. While Ella acknowledges she has scars from previous heartbreaks, she feels surprisingly safe with her new romantic interest. “Who knew I’d ever find / So many feelings / Some I can’t mention / Who knew I’d find / A place to hide,” she sings gently. Ella’s warm, resonant low range is especially impressive on “Hide.”
If there’s any major takeaway from Heart On My Sleeve, it’s that vulnerable, powerful female artists like Ella Mai are running the R&B game right now – and there’s no sign of them stopping anytime soon.