kehlani album review
06 10

Kehlani SweetSexySavage Atlantic

Kehlani’s name gained some unwelcome attention in 2016. After finding herself at the centre of a Twitter storm of false cheating accusations, the 21-year-old Oakland singer refused to buckle under the pressure. Instead, she transformed a stressful moment in the spotlight into a platform to speak frankly about mental health, public perceptions and her own relationships. An extension of the direct nature that the RnB upstart has become known for over the past two years, Kehlani continues to explore these themes on her hotly anticipated album.

Kehlani’s style is a contemporary tribute to all things femme, soul and/or girl group, even down to the album title, which harks back to TLC’s 1994 album CrazySexyCool. Songs like Keep On, Distraction and Too Much are crying for a Hype Williams-directed wind tunnel video with their soft, trustworthy RnB harmonies, keys and creeping double clap beats. In Personal, Not Used To It and Piece of Mind we find gems of infectious vulnerability reminiscent of Drake circa Marvin’s Room. The therapeutic function of SweetSexySavage is clear; the pensive conversation is honest and intimate, almost to a point of voyeurism. The last element of Kehlani’s empowering trifecta is her unapologetic message of self-ownership in all her youthful and albeit flawed glory – CRZY, Undercover and Do U Dirty act as the sing-along anthems of strength and tenacity: “If I gotta be a bitch, Imma be a bad one” as words to live by.

Building upon the foundation of her dynamic Grammy-nominated mixtape, You Should Be Here, Kehlani has again accomplished her mission of unpacking the diversity of the individual. Often the strongest collections of work are those of which the fan favourites vary from person to person and this will undoubtedly be true of SweetSexySavage. Nevertheless, in there, behind a sprinkling of indulgent auto-tune and a few tiresome epiphanic skits, we find the emotional and sonic Sweetness, the retro Aaliyah-esque Sexy and the maverick feminist Savage to complete Kehlani’s holy trinity of badassery.