‘The Masquerade’ is the debut album from 19 year old Maia, known professionally as Mxmtoon. She released her debut EP ‘plum blossom’ last year, and has quickly gathered a large audience of fans, with her single ‘prom dress’ gaining over 17 million streams on Spotify, probably partly helped by the fact that the song was a big meme for a while on the viral video app TikTok. However, I always thought the song was genuinely good, and album shows that Maia has more than one up the sleeve of her prom dress.
Opening Track ‘unspoken words’ highlights how impressive Maia’s songwriting is, and is a perfect opener for the album. Starting off really lo-fi with a drum beat that sounds right off a kid’s keyboard, the track bursts into a lushly produced, twinkly sad banger with a great melody that really shows off Maia’s charming vocals, which for me sit somewhere between Emma Stone and Corrine Bailey Rae.
‘prom dress’ follows, and it’s still as catchy and original as when I first heard it; it;s a simple concept for a song, and the lyrics are very straight to the point and direct, but it’s so difficult to execute songs like that well, and ‘prom dress’ is pretty much a perfect acoustic pop song.
‘high & dry’ is a cute, upbeat and breezy mid-album track that has some of Maia’s best lyrics; “There’s little reward in stinging me like a bee”, and on ‘my ted talk’ she manages to really opens up without seeming she is trying to sell her emotions too hard, and the track has some genuinely charming and funny spoken ad-libs that bring her personality even further to the front. ‘seasonal depression’ is an album highlight for me; another sad banger that shows that Maia isn’t afraid of shying away from any topic, and won’t hide her feelings behind endless metaphors.
‘The Masquerade’ is a great debut album, and it proves that Mxmtoon is one of the most promising young songwriters in the world right now.