Maybe you’ve heard his name—so fabulously alliterative, you want to say it just to say it—and maybe you haven’t. Soon, you’ll surely be hearing it. Eighteen months ago, you surely wouldn't have been. His recent EU/UK tour was entirely sold-out, meaning 6,000 lucky fans will forever be able to say they were with Mackay-ers through the year that picked his life right up and tossed it all about. This EP, Life, Love, and Upsets, is “my past twelve months in six songs,” Mackay tells us. 
When a mere twelve months brings you more than 100 million streams and over 3 million Spotify monthly listeners, immense reflection ensues. Mackay’s EP is a capsule of that reflection. The song Don’t Quit Trying perfectly encapsulates Mackay’s journey to success. “Feeling confined with this whole life that I was living,” Mackay says, the “only thing that got me this far was my own words—I went away and did my homework; I held it all up on my own two shoulders.” One cannot help but imagine that, while indeed trying to inspire hope in his fans, Mackay is talking to himself, too. Don’t Quit Trying is an acknowledgment of himself– and all the work he did– to himself . He just happens to be generous enough to make his (millions of) fans privy.
While the artist knows that people are listening, fame has not stifled his willingness to be vulnerable. The London-based singer delivers just what he promises—tales of life, love, and upsets. He brings listeners across soaring peaks: sold-out tours, online virality, recognition by BBC Radio 1 as “Artist of the Week", and chasmic valleys: homelessness, mental health struggles, heartbreak, and failure. The EP highlights neither highs nor lows at the expense of the other; it embraces this chaotic existence for all that it is. In Cold Stare, Mackay’s pain lands viscerally. His descriptions of splitting his “head wide open,” “setting fire to [his] left and [his] right side,” and feeling “shook, concussed” ensure that we grasp the misery to which he alludes.
While the songs Don’t Quit Trying, Cold Stare, and Every Last Detail are focused directly on the individual, Mackay takes significant interest, too, in romantic love. The other half of his EP—the songs Bruised One, Home, and Looking Like That—is wholly dedicated to love and its all-consuming nature. In Home, speaking to a beloved, Mackay says, “You’re somewhere I can say that I belong.” He suggests that love for another human might actually assume the grounding role of a physical place. This idea is not novel per se, but Mackay has the ability to write lyrics in a way that makes listeners feel something in a way they never quite had before.
Thanks to the immense topographic range covered in this EP, it’s all you really need when you want to blast music as you fly down the highway windows down, or when you want to lay with your face buried in your pillow at 3 a.m.—because what is there other than life, love, and upsets? In terms of genre, Mackay covers all the bases, too. He dabbles evenly in buzzy pop, punchy rap, and melodic R&B. Aware of his wide-ranging fan base, perhaps Mackay eases us into rap when he raps, song when he sings, and gives us the gift of silences, a powerful tool often overlooked by vocalists. In the track Looking Like That, Mackay comes in with a hard strike right off the bat, rapping for fifteen seconds, before suddenly launching into song, a song that continues, laced with stints of rap, for the next two and a half minutes.
Don’t Quit Trying sees just the opposite, with a twenty-second-ish sing-songy intro followed by a sudden switch to rap after forty-five seconds. Home, on the other hand, begins with almost fifteen seconds of silence, as if warning listeners of the emotional rollercoaster to come. Mackenzy Mackay throws stylistic surprises at us, ensuring we stay on our toes, ears perked, heart rate up, ready to hear him work his magic.
Mackenzy Mackay’s latest EP is like a big cosmopolitan city—there’s something for everyone. We anxiously await whatever he comes up with next. And one thing’s for sure: this is only the beginning.