Album review: Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage

21-year-old R&B singer Kehlani is blunt, bold, and badass. The tatted-up vocalist grew up in Oakland, California. She went from broke and homeless to establishing herself as a successful artist. Kehlani now has millions of hits on her SoundCloud, and an even larger fanbase. She has collaborated with singers like Zayn and Charlie Puth, and was even featured on the soundtrack for the movie Suicide Squad. Last year, her mixtape You Should Be Here scored her a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Kehlani released her first mixtape, Cloud 19, in 2014 and You Should Be Here a year later. By then, she had gained popularity on urban hip-hop stations all over the country. Her debut album SweetSexySavage was released on Jan. 27, and is free to listen to on SoundCloud.

Her quick launch of a music career may sound like a dream come true, but in all reality, Kehlani had a tumultuous past couple of years. She openly talked about her battle with depression in interviews and on social media. At her lowest point (last March), Kehlani was hospitalized following a suicide attempt. She posted a photo on Instagram of her arm hooked up to an IV, accompanied by a caption, some of which read, “Everyone is hurt and everyone is in a place of misunderstanding…but as of today, I had no single wish to see tomorrow…but God saved me for a reason, and for that I must be grateful…” After that post, Kehlani deactivated her social media accounts for a short while as she moved toward recovery.

When I heard about SweetSexySavage’s release, I did not expect it to happen so soon. Kehlani’s resilience is amazing and this album is proof. The new album is smooth, catchy, and just has something refreshing about it. Part of why I think that may be is because I started listening to it last week, just as the weather was getting warmer.

Topping my favorites is the song “Piece of Mind,” where Kehlani expresses an openness about her past struggles, singing “Tryna get back to all the hobbies from my old days / Tryna forget all the unnecessary / Thoughts from my head man, it was pretty scary.” The song is both sassy and sincere and I love everything about it.

Another notable song is “Everything is Yours,” which has all the elements of a classic R&B song, but with a modern sound. With a chorus like “I love you shawty, shawty / You know you my shawty, shawty / I need you to make me happy / there will never be nobody,” it’s hard not to go wrong in an R&B ballad.

As a whole, SweetSexySavage is a gamut of several elements of the adult experience. The songs “Piece of Mind” and “Advice” focus on self-care, “Undercover” and “Distraction” are about relationships that are kept secret, “Do U Dirty” is about lust, and most of the other songs are just high energy and empowering, in general. The album has a great sound and features depth in the lyrics. It’s self-assured, but also fun and, honestly, it’s hard not to fall in love with it.

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