Kehlani - SweetSexySavage
Kehlani was once the fourth runner up on "America's Got Talent" singing for a cover band, but looking at her and listening to her you would never guess she would go that far. She is not generic or easy to swallow, She's intense, self-assured and on this new record SweetSexySavage unwilling to compromise. After her stint on the show labels came calling and a couple records released, they however felt clunky, over produced and in a word uninspired. That changes with this album, each track feels cared for, argued over all to eventually land on the best Pop/R&B album She could bring. The TLC comparison is right on the surface with the album title referencing their CrazySexyCool, and it is one that Kehlani does not shy away from. She is not frightened by these sentiments but instead embraces them and uses those influences to power the album forward. The record has a similar tone to DVSN's incredible Sept 5th from last year, but it is lighter less dirty and more sweet. Yet she also likes to get into the dirty on occasion, showing that people are complex emotionally and can hold opposing thoughts in their mind at once. Her voice is so pretty when she let's it loose like on "Piece of Mind" and while vocal effects are nice sometimes it is great to hear someone let their voice shine. The bop is also so damn good on this record where you can't help but move your body, "Undercover" is a prime example.
The single "CRZY" is a standout though it is the most commercially acceptable song on the record. It has a fun almost Trap-Lite beat and her delivery is half hip hop half R&B and it just works. "Everything is Yours" is one of the slower songs on the record and when She is rapping/singing it is nice, but their is so much space left on the track that you get these long periods with almost no sound. This is often used to free up a song and allow it some mobility, but here it just feels like silence for silence's sake. "Advice" verges on a real anthem but doesn't go far enough and thus doesn't live up to it's enormous potential. You can imagine a giant venue filled with people singing along with Kehlani to this track and in that context it would really soar. What you really notice is Kehlani works best when the pressure is off. Her first two releases came with high expectations and thus label interference was likely at an all time high. SweetSexySavage works because she's free to have fun, be sad or whatever the fuck she wants. It is how music should be, a reflection of what is in your mind and in your heart. Kehlani finally nails it.
8.5 out of 10