20th February 2017

Album: SweetSexySavage – Kehlani

Kehlani’s debut album is a personal and dark as it is fun, resulting in an album that manages to discuss difficult topics whilst remaining a pop delight, writes Charlie Maudsley

Released 27th January 2017 via Atlantic


After receiving a well-deserved Grammy nomination in 2016 for her mixtape You Should Be Here, there was a lot of anticipation for Kehlani’s debut album SweetSexySavage.

On the surface, the 21-year-old singer takes a similar stylistic approach towards her debut effort, employing the same R&B tones and feisty attitude to her work that she has used previously. Nevertheless, with the release of SweetSexySavage, Kehlani has seemingly proven herself as an artist that can hold her own next to her more-established female contemporaries in the music industry such as Tinashe and Jhené Aiko.

Throughout SweetSexySavage, Kehlani utilises her music as a form of therapy by expressing her darker, more sinister thoughts in various tracks. Not shy to controversy, Kehlani kicks off her album by addressing her mental health issues that lead to a well-documented suicide attempt earlier last year in the first track aptly named ‘Intro,’ where the singer offers “condolences to anyone who has ever lost me.”

Likewise, in ‘Piece of Mind,’ Kehlani reveals how, after a lot of soul-searching and support, she “can feel again, won’t be dumb again” – a clear reference to her demons and her success in overcoming them. Issues of mental health are clearly very sensitive and personal topics for the star, and Kehlani offers an insight into her life and thought process by talking about them, giving her debut album a more personal edge in the process.

Although her album does offer thoughtful and introspective lyricism, Kehlani still delivers a handful of pop-infused tracks to keep the club-goers happy. For example, the single ‘CRZY’ offers an incredibly infectious chorus as Kehlani repeats the words “crazy” over a heavy urban beat.

Similarly, ‘Distraction’ is another example of a radio-friendly single that sees the star ask her lover “Are you down to be a distraction, baby?” Kehlani hires her long-time producers Pop & Oak and Novawav on tracks such as these to add a pop influence to the mostly R&B-based tracks, which gives the singer her signature musical style.

Overall, Kehlani has managed to top her earlier musical projects with SweetSexySavage, as she seems to have matured into her own, self-established artist. In comparison to her peers, Kehlani applies R&B beats over her lyrics that often are delivered in a very candid manner, giving an edge to the singer that offers an alternative to her sweet yet sexy image.

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