Kehlani may be best known for her prior collaborations with Chance the Rapper and BJ The Chicago Kid on her album You Should Be Here (2015); but SweetSexySavage is the California R&B singer’s bold announcement that she will soon be a name that can stand on its own. At only 21 years old, Kehlani has a presence that is much stronger than her age may suggest, and is able to craft an album that makes a confident statement with smooth vocals and top notch production that doesn’t feel overdone in an oversaturated genre.
SweetSexySavage opens with “Intro,” a spoken word track that adds a darker tone to the playful album title by exploring how to be a strong woman while navigating complex relationships: “I’m afraid you’re under the impression / That I was made to please you / I was under the impression you understood me better / The truth is, I’m a superwoman.” The track is reflective of Kehlani at her finest: she is a woman who embodies being forthright, strong, and bold, but is also not afraid to express a deeper level of vulnerability and desire for dependence.
If SweetSexySavage is one thing, it is proof from Kehlani that she is completely comfortable in her skin, no matter how cliché some of her lyrics may be. After a stint on “America’s Got Talent” and leaving her first original band “PopLyfe,” Kehlani struggled with depression and a slow professional start. The tracklist of SweetSexySavage tells a different story, making her confidence fully apparent on stand out tracks like “Distraction,” a blunt song with an infectious chorus in which Kehlani seeks a romantic partner for, yes, a distraction, and “I Wanna Be,” a smooth, seductive track that screams pop anthem. Likewise, “Do U Dirty” is Kehlani’s bold pronouncement that she’s an unapologetic player, tapping into a seductive heartbreaker persona (“You think you love me now/I think you should be worried”).
Where SweetSexySavage falls short is in its repetitiveness. Instead of taking risks, Kehlani chose to play it safe, failing to deviate from familiar themes of relationships, lust, love, and heartbreak and the musical style she’s clearly comfortable and confident in. Where this style works, it works really well – Kehlani executes “CRZY” with fearless confidence, belting punchy, repetitive lyrics over an addictive trap beat. However, her album could have been even more compelling had she been more willing to experiment, pushing her own boundaries.
Voices’ Choices: “CRZY,” “Do U Dirty”
Image Credits: Atlantic Records