Mila Smith’s ‘You Need Therapy’ is an emotion-laden body of work from a rising star

6-tracks shining with conviction and versatility

Exploring any creative path, especially at such a young age comes with significant levels of doubt and the universal weight of personal expectations. In these times, forging a creative career is even more tasking given the vast amount of saturation in the industry and the overwhelming pool of talent looking to make their big break. Nonetheless, when it comes to music, new stars are being minted and a new vanguard of hitmakers are emerging from the African continent.

In the music industry today, success is measured by the billions of streams and number of accolades an artist can accomplish in their career span. Given this system of rewarding based on merit, it can be easy to side-step the collaborative process of music creation and remain insular in music delivery and performance. However, true creativity springs from the channeling a true and honest collaborative spirit and inviting others into your creative vision. This experience of working closely with other creatives is at the heart and soul of rising South African singer, Mila Smith’s music which sounds like aural healing for listeners in need.

In an exclusive interview with the NATIVE, Mila emphasises the sacred process of choosing collaborators so early on in her professional career and how one move could make or break your career. “It’s also just someone that holds the space for you to fail. Oftentimes, the best ideas will come out of failure and a shot in the dark. Sometimes you wouldn’t take that shot or make that leap if you’re afraid of judgment. I look out for people that hold that space and make room for that creativity to shine through,” she admits. With the release of her debut EP, ‘You Need Therapy,’ Mila’s maturity shines through not only in her choice of collaborators, but also in her ability to peel back the curtain on her personal experiences and journey thus far. Her sound, depicted largely through a soulful, pop-driven soundscape shines a spotlight on her storytelling abilities as she details her roaring emotions in the most honest and vulnerable way. 

The arrival of the 6-track extended play was teased by her 2021 standout debut, “Liars and Fakes.” Largely inspired by American pop princess, Dua Lipa and one of Mila’s greatest inspirations, Madonna, the pop-driven track provides an upbeat atmosphere for Mila to call out all the two-faced people in her life. The single leads in with daunting piano keys, followed shortly after with groovy strings that allow Mila travel into the rock atmosphere and aptly unpack her emotions. “Special, just an adjective you used for me,” she croons, immediately establishing the mood of the track.

She is unafraid to express her true emotions as she shares just how exhausting the inconsistencies are for her. When the song’s hook rolls around, Mila clearly proclaims over the now high-tempo progressions, “I don’t like liars, I don’t like fakes.” She takes the second verse to warn, “don’t come back when I succeed,” evidently confident in her abilities. When the track draws to a close, it is clear that Mila isn’t one to shy away from somewhat replicating her idols, while adding her own unique spin.

In a short time, Mila has been able to connect to audiences both within South Africa and beyond, holding the promise of an artist on the cusp of further breakthrough. It was in this well-deserved limelight that she unveiled another layer of her artistry with a pop-punk track, “Nice Guy,” in late 2022. “Nice Guy,” also serves as an introduction to her latest EP ‘You Need Therapy,’ and finds Mila operating pre-naturally at ease with her budding talent. “The lyrics are very honest but they pack a punch. I felt like it was only with a more Rock or Punk sound that the message of the song would’ve been perfectly conveyed. Had I stuck to another genre, maybe the music would not have been as effective,” Mila shares of the track.

On “You Need Therapy(Ready),” Mila shirks stylistic expectations and delivers a powerful rendition which brings her soulful vocals to the fore. After a series of distasteful actions, Mila has finally decided to part ways with her love interest in what we can conclude is her most honest delivery yet. This self-empowering number sees Mila reassuring herself and listeners that it is alright to part ways with unfavourable situations despite how familiar they may seem. Despite the song’s emotion-laden lyrics, the narrative is told through the lens of an upbeat, piano and guitar-led production with pop sensibilities.

“Toxic,” like the other tracks on the EP, is hinged on the subject of romance and affection. Here, Mila sings “You’ve got two personalities and I don’t know which one you are with me/It’s toxic, it’s toxic,” addressing an undeserving lover. On this mid-tempo number, Mila grapples with disappointment from discovering the truth about a close companion. In a similar fashion to “Nice Guy,” she struggles to connect her expectations and reality as she explains, “Were you like this all along?, I had hoped that I was wrong. By the conclusion, it’s clear that Mila is just here to express her emotions whether or not that comes with a resolution.

The penultimate track, “Hide In Hell,” is a powerful anthem depicting all the self-assuredness and conviction that comes from forging one’s own path and not leaning on anyone else. Mila had to tap into strong emotions to relay this experience and told the NATIVE that “Initially, when I was writing this I had this fixation on distance. My other producer also had this imagery of a hotel which kind of links to distance, travel and separation.” The track takes on a darker, more mature tone as she outrightly asks her love interest to hide in hell because their situation is beyond redemption.

On the EP closer, “Can’t Cope,” Mila gets candid about her struggles from childhood, a familiar experience for most young African adults. She aptly expresses feelings of dread while singing with a powerful voice laced with a honeyed falsetto, vivid yet economical songwriting, and expansive production. Speaking about the track, Mila shared “this was written when I was preparing for a math test in 2018. I was 14 years old at the time and I was on the stairs, crying because I despise math. The first line was my real experience because my head was in my hands and I did hate it.”

With a collection of poignant and resonating tracks, alongside lyrical breakup anthems more pointed and razor-focused than the last, it’s safe to say that Mila Smith is a recognisable talent with a penchant for narrative and relatable emotions. Mila’s conviction is apparent through the course of the ‘You Need Therapy,’ priming her for eventual success in her near future.

Listen to ‘You Need Therapy’ here.

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