One of the most promising artists to pop up towards the end of 2016 was none other than Kehlani. Her sweet R&B tones and pop flair made her one of the most hyped up artists in the scene, and she's made it clear that she's not a flash in a pain with her debut SweetSexySavage, which lives up to its title in many ways.
The title of the record is Kehlani's description of the record - sweet, sexy, and savage. That's a pretty accurate summation of what this record is. The album begins on a chill note, subtle sensualness peaking through in 'Keep On.' The sweetness follows through on single 'Distraction,' a slightly stronger drive showing through as Kehlani sings with a thousand harmonies and a laidback instrumental backing it.
The energy picks up a bit after the first few tracks - there's a streak of very strong, energetic songs that ring with all three of the album's qualities in a row. First up is 'Piece Of Mind,' ringing sweetly in its intro with Kehlani's smooth, wanting vocals. The song builds up, Kehlani's voice growing in strength as the song progresses. Following up is 'Undercover,' immediately ringing off with fantastic melodies that dance with the flowing instrumental. The song's sweet composition slowly builds up darker and darker until the end that becomes almost haunting. There's a big conviction in this track. 'CRZY' rings with more dreamy fantasy than tracks before it, but Kehlani sounds strongest here, confidently delivering the lines "Everything I do, I do it with a passion / If I gotta be a bitch, I'ma be a bad one," saying that she doesn't go easy into anything. The choruses are pure R&B bliss, with the descending line leading into a sweet hook.
A good stretch of this album isn't particularly exciting, but most tracks deliver a soothing experience. After the badass vibes and more savage drive of 'Not Used To It,' the album levels out for some time before picking up again at the end. This lull isn't necessarily a bad stretch of songs, though; these songs could just use a little more to them, as they almost mesh together and become a bit too similar in texture. Songs like 'Advice' and 'Escape,' for example, have sweet and poppy vibes, but there's nothing particularly special about them that makes sound special in the track list.
The end of SweetSexySavage is quite powerful. 'Hold Me By The Heart' is a beautiful track, beginning with a sweet interview where a woman speaks passionately about love. The track then carries through with the rawest instrumental on the record, sweet acoustic guitars and subtle synths playing melodically and longingly under Kehlani's bluesy melody. The many harmonies in the backing vocals make the track all the more lovable. Final track 'Thank You' feels like an appropriate sendoff to the record, the cute and innocent intro leading to a pretty song that builds to a blissful end that feels final in the narrative of this record.
Kehlani's debut album is a strong one. It's not perfect, but SweetSexySavage lives up to its title in that it delivers all three adjectives throughout its tracklist. It's an album that you can tell means a lot to Kehlani, both in terms of passion and person. It's a very revealing look into her experiences with love, and that alone should be enough to appreciate this record. Luckily, it has some great tracks to make that appreciation warranted.
Favorite Tracks: CRZY, Undercover, Hold Me By The Heart, Thank You
Least Favorite Track: Advice
Rating: 77 / 100
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