Kehlani’s debut album reinvigorates her drive

‘SweetSexySavage’ showcases multi-faceted artistry

Fair use from Atlantic

Fair use from Atlantic

After earning a 2016 Grammy nomination for her mixtape, “You Should Be Here,” Oakland-native R&B singer-songwriter Kehlani released her debut album: “SweetSexySavage.”

Kehlani’s emergence in the music industry began after a short stint on America’s Got Talent with her former high school band. Following her time on television, Kehlani signed to Atlantic Records and went on to release two extended plays (EP’s), one of which received a Grammy nomination.

Through collaborations with many well-known artists, including Justin Bieber, G-Eazy and Zayn, Kehlani’s presence has expanded over the past few years. In addition to these collaborations, “You Should Be Here,” Kehlani’s grammy-nominated mixtape, featured appearances by Chance the Rapper and BJ the Chicago Kid.

“SweetSexySavage,” an homage to TLC’s album title “CrazySexyCool,” transcends genres, as its 17 songs explore pop, r&b, trap and neo-soul.

The first track, an introductory spoken-word piece by Reyna Biddy, sets the tone for the album. “SweetSexySavage” is driven by Kehlani’s personal stories, showcased in the lyrics of songs like “Personal” and “Not Used To It,” as well as the short spoken-intros included on multiple songs, which feature voices from Kehlani’s friends and family.

“SweetSexySavage” boasts a collection of incredible and undeniable highlights. “Keep On” scores an immediate hit with its thumping bass line, syncopated claps and killer melody, as Kehlani croons in self-pity about her relationship, followed by a memorable Jazz solo.

Following “Keep On,” “Distraction” earns its place as the album’s R&B highlight,

with 90s-inspired production and an undeniably catchy melody. A third consecutive hit, “Piece of Mind” shines with its lush production and Kehlani’s dreamy background vocals.

“Undercover,” the album’s one true pop song, also soars with seamless production, coupled with defiant lyrics towards those against Kehlani’s sexuality.

On the aptly named standout track “Personal,” Kehlani swiftly raps about overcoming obstacles and about her personal growth as both an artist and in relationships.  Written around an Aaliyah sample, “Personal” is one of multiple songs on the album that samples other artists that Kehlani successfully puts her own spin on. “Personal” satisfies the trifecta of songwriting, combining strong lyrics with an earworm melody, sewn together by fantastic production.

Padding the album’s strong tracks are a few forgettable filler songs, suffering from weak melodies incapable of carrying their consistently strong production. These filler tracks are a result of the album’s length, which sit
s at 17 songs, occasionally giving the impression that Kehlani favors quantity-over-quality. Ultimately, these unmemorable highlights, which are not unenjoyable songs, but merely forgettable do not ruin “SweetSexySavage’s” listening experience.

“SweetSexySavage” is worth checking out for those interested in discovering an up-and-coming artist. The album’s genre-transcending tracklist encompasses enough musical styles
that there’s something that appeals to everyone. Despite not settling on a specific genre, “SweetSexySavage” maintains its essence throughout by telling Kehlani’s life story through its personal lyrics, backed by consistently seamless production and earworm melodies.

For those interested in listening to the album, “SweetSexySavage” is currently available on iTunes for purchase and on Spotify for streaming.

“SweetSexySavage” by Kehlani: 4/5

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