Mandi Macias brings through an admittedly retro pop sound on this EP Sixteen. Not so much in her songwriting, though slightly, but in particular – the production style. From the moment the title track kicks up, thick bass-lines and flickers of synths, even this rolling, vintage drum-line; all of this lays out a fairly nostalgic scene.
From a songwriting perspective, there’s no question as to whether these songs work. Macias writes with an awareness of precisely what qualities attract and hold an audience’s attention. Sixteen pours through with various different sections, the mood keeps changing, as does her vocal performance in unison, and many of the moments feature long-form melodies and complex lyrical developments that work perfectly well within the soundscape. If ever pop has needed a twist of completely free creativity, it’s now – and Mandi Macias puts in a strong contender for that cause.
As the EP continues, the instrumentation consistently reflects the sentiments of each song. You get a definite sense of this being a songwriter, an artist, first and foremost – not confined by a single genre or rule. Obsessed, in example, drives with a gentle vocal melody and an acoustic guitar sound. The hook is incredibly simple and for this reason it sinks in well – you remember it easily, and you can sing along pretty quickly with it. The more you listen though, the more you hear that inherent emotional depth that Macias expresses within her writing, and the more it connects.
Wild Love takes the eclecticism even further, fusing an acoustic guitar rhythm with a hip hop inspired beat and a rising intensity. The verses feel more intense than the hook here, another nod in the direction of creative freedom. After this, Not Ur Baby emerges as perhaps the most classically pop-like song on the project – or at least it seems that way at first. With a hint of RnB to the melody, the song drives with a sense of empowerment and strength. Even with the labels though, the song paves its own way – the music leans towards experimental EDM after the hook, and things continue to evolve throughout. There’s a freshness to it all that feels a little more alternative in some ways.
Reminding you once more of the artist behind all of this – the personal touch, the feelings and experiences, the individual – Young Girl is a stunning song and makes for a beautiful way to end the EP. Acoustic guitar picking accompanies the vocal outpouring in a gentle and accessible way. Your focus is on the lyrics, the ideas – and so it should be. You relate to and connect with this purity and this sentiment of not needing to grow up so fast.
Soft harmonies light up the outer edges on occasion, adding emphasis in a natural way. For the most part though, this song works on its own strength alone – the lyrics and Macias’ presentation of them connect in a genuine way. You can hear the live solo sound and you know it would be just as captivating as a full on pop show – perhaps even more so, depending on what you want to experience.
Mandi Macias has been writing songs since she was just eight years old, and that experience shows, for sure – but even so; this is hopefully still just the beginning. Her love for songwriting shines brightly, and this EP is innately impressive and enjoyable right the way through.