Dropping her nostalgia-filled single “Senseless” today, the UK R&B star talks her 90s-inspired sound.

It’s only been a year since north-west star Mnelia casually broke on to the scene with her nostalgic-tinged single “Say Yeah”, and the singer is already being hailed as one of the UK’s most promising R&B stars. With the single spreading like gossip across the TL and blog pages, the singer’s sugar-coated vocals became impossible to ignore and it soon became the UK scene’s most loved track with the early 2000s production commanding our attention. Skilfully weaving glittering synths with irresistible melodies, the singer delivered a heavy dose of nostalgia on her breakthrough track, and she’s continuing to serve up the same prowess on her latest single “Senseless”.

Created with the same mastermind behind “Say Yeah”, the singer firmly sets herself in-between R&B and pop sensibilities, as her vocals ride a lively production filled with delicate trills, dulcet melodies and fiery teenage emotions. Achieving all the ambience of throwback grown and sexy R&B, the burgeoning artist modernises it with her producer StevieBBeatz, and creates a lush soundscape that shows different shades of love, vulnerability and attitude.

Joining the wave of her R&B counterparts, the singer’s accompanying video shows Mnelia with her girl gang on a variety of sets, paying homage to Destiny’s Child-style videos as she chills and gossips about the senselessness of love and pours herself over a handsome muse. Cutting to a scene of the singer in a luxurious nursery, the singer acknowledges her new role as a mother, as she toys with various building bricks and prams.

“Senseless” marks the start of an ever-growing trajectory for the 22-year-old star, and we caught up with Mnelia talking her 90-inspired sound, embracing her new role as a mother and how she’s determined to be a kick-ass mom and shake up the R&B world.

Check out the interview below…

Hey Mnelia! How’s lockdown been?
Lockdown for me has been great, better than I thought. I’m a home body type of person so the thought of staying indoors isn’t anything I shy away from. Being a Cancer, it’s my natural trait in general keeping myself to myself.

Do you think it’s affected your creativity?
No, in fact it’s probably done the opposite. Given me the amount of time needed to be inspired with my work as opposed to being more creative. Sometimes you have to take a step back from the work in order to appreciate what you’ve done and come back 10x stronger.

You grew up in north-west London which has a huge music scene, what was it like growing up surrounded by music?
Lady Sovereign lived down the road from me and being a Channel U vet she proper inspired me. She didn’t actually do what I wanted to do musically but because she was a lady and always G’d up with how she carried herself etc it was so inspiring to grow up and see. As well as her, N Dubz lived down the road from me too so it was nice to see prominent characters in my local area. I literally saw Dappy going to my local corner shop in year 6 which at the time you don’t realise but it helps builds character in the long term because you realise the people you aspire to be like are close within your reach than you think.

Growing up you wanted to become a UN peacekeeper, what made you switch to focusing on music?
Nothing really made me switch. I think my stars aligned. It sounds crazy but I genuinely think everything in my life that has happened was meant to happen to bring me to this point of my life now. I didn’t ever make an active decision and wake up one day and decide I didn’t want to be a UN peacekeeper anymore. I didn’t decide it just fell into place and I’m not mad at it.

You burst onto the scene with “Say Yeah” last year which had a huge impact on the UK music scene, what was it like dealing with so much success so fast?
When the single took off, I went to LA the following week and then when I came back it was lockdown across the country so I went into work mode. I actually didn’t have time personally to take everything in. It’s just been nice with people reaching out to me and familiarising themselves with my art form which I really appreciate and like – being the best part of it all. But I’m not upset, I know there’s more to come and more to celebrate.

You draw on a lot of 90s inspiration in your music and videos, what draws you to this era?
It’s the era that raised me. Naturally, I’ll always be nostalgic and indebted to it for building the person I have become. I attribute a lot of influence to key players in that time period as they were raw and real talent. It was nice seeing people grow and fans growing with those artists. I want to replicate that success with my own career and allow my fans to grow with me. Let them in my personal life to an extent and understand me at a deeper level past the music.

Congratulations on your new single “Senseless”! What was the creative process like?
Thank you! Senseless was the easiest single I’ve ever had to make if I’m being honest. Stevie played me a cut.. I played in the guitar sample and then we worked on the drums, structured the beat and then I just wrote! At the time I was actually inspired by a Jay silva hook that he once got me to sing and thought let me try a new style of writing and it helped so I took and ran with it.

What was filming the video like?
Filming the video was amazing, probably the most fun shoot I’ve done yet. It’s been a long time coming. We knew exactly what we wanted to do and even though due to the pandemic we couldn’t execute everything we still brought it to life and to a level that we would all be so proud of. Also, I had both my best friends in the video so it’s definitely one for the memory books to look back on.

You’ve also recently become a mother – congratulations! Do you think this new experience has changed the way you create music in anyway?
Not change the way I create music.. but definitely rounded me as a person and human being. I have an extension of myself in this world so I’m I different person. If anything, he enhances my creative process far more. Every day I want to make music that he will one day listen to and be proud of which ultimately makes you want to go x10 stronger.

The UK music scene is constantly growing but UK R&B is only recently becoming more prominent, why do you think this is?
Everything has its time in life. I see it as other genres have had their time and now they are somewhat going through a change. R&B – was the best so they saved it till last maybe haha and is now at a level it is ready to take the scene by storm.

Who would you say is your musical inspirations? And who would you love to work with?
My musical inspirations would be Brandy, Frank Ocean and My Dad. My Dad can sing and taught me all I know about harmonising growing up. He spoke multiple languages, which in turn fuelled my ability to change between genres of what I was listening and studying. It was never just one genre in our house. It was a whole heap of stuff. I would love to work with Frank Ocean in a writing aspect. But probably more so would love to work with Lenny Kravtiz who reminds me of our modern day Jimmy Hendrix. I feel he’s so underrated and people fail to engage with him as he looks like a character who doesn’t even speak let alone make music. I would be enticed really by how he makes music and how he is so great, getting down some guitar and drumming riffs hopefully. 

You dropped an EP towards the end of last year, is there another one on the way or are you in album mode?
The best way to put it is that I am in a bubble of creation. What comes from the bubble cannot be dictated but what will come is super special for everyone.

What are you most excited for? What is next for you?
I am excited to make some badass music with an amazing badass son by my side. Just show everyone that I will still chase my dreams whilst being transparent to the responsibilities that I have. Ultimately, just really wanting to put more of myself out more to the sound waves of the public so people can understand the essence of Mnelia better.

Dayna Southall