Not innovative, still catchy
The release of Kehlani’s debut album, “SweetSexySavage,” brought with it high expectations and rightfully so: the female R&B artist first made waves in the music industry with her mixtape, “You Should Be Here,” featuring hits like “Unconditional” and “The Way” ft. Chance the Rapper. Kehlani’s first few successes were refreshing, reminding you of everything you loved about contemporary R&B. Known to make you feel a nostalgia towards relationships past, present and even those yet-to-exist, Kehlani delivered as promised with “SweetSexySavage.”
Realistically, however, the album carries a certain repetitiveness, or lack of originality throughout – a problem that many debut albums seem to struggle with these days. Therefore, the album disappoints to a certain extent. The truth is, of the eighteen full-length songs, it feels impossible for two-thirds of the album to stand out enough to even remember them by name. Songs like “Escape,” “In My Feelings” and “Too Much” unfortunately mesh and blend into one, making it hard to notice the songs for little other than a few interesting lyrics – for example, “love like a gun, it leaves me stunned” (from “In My Feelings”).
The few exceptions seem to include “Distraction,” “CRZY” and “Keep On,” amongst a few others, though “Distraction” and “CRZY” are not new songs. “Piece of Mind,” “I Wanna Be” and “Get Like” also seem to hold some originality that would make them recognizable if you heard them playing on the radio, or maybe in a darkly-lit Adidas store. “Piece of Mind,” especially, distinctly feels like a song you’d listen to while getting ready on a mellow but optimistic Friday afternoon.
A slight lack of originality isn’t to say that any song off Kehlani’s album won’t make you want to roll your windows down and turn the volume up. Similar to the sweet, but risqué vibes of Jhene Aiko and others in the genre, Kehlani continues to bring a sense of irresponsibility and carelessness to your ears – one that makes you want to make tempting decisions and adopt a faster-paced, freer-spirited lifestyle.
The album starts off with an intro by poet Reyna Biddy. “My condolences to anyone who has ever lost me, and to anyone who got lost in me, or to anyone who ever took a loss with me, my apologies for the misunderstanding, or the lack thereof,” says Biddy, with a soulfulness and intensity that sets the tone for the first few songs of the album.
“Keep On” and “I Wanna Be” stand out, primarily due to having a unique beat to it that others off the album seem to miss by a mere note or two. “Hold Me By The Heart,” too, has a certain factor that lets it stand out from the rest of the album, potentially because of its slower pace. This song is one of the few that adds the “Sweet” to the predominantly “Sexy” and “Savage” parts of the album, almost sounding like it could be a riskier song off an ancient Taylor Swift album.
The last song on the album – “Gangsta,” was featured in the 2016 DC Comics film, “Suicide Squad,” starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Cara Delevingne and Viola Davis, among others. Ending the album on an eerie and intense note, “Gangsta” was used in “Suicide Squad” while depicting the confusing romance between the Joker and Harley Quinn characters.
All in all, the album provides a predictable listen, but the tunes are nonetheless as catchy and encouraging as expected from an artist like Kehlani. A few more of her songs may even be hitting the radio waves in the next few months with the soulful background beats, and strongly-opinionated lyrics that will resonate with many women.