Up and coming Oakland R&B singer Kehlani delivers sensational vocals throughout her highly anticipated debut album, SweetSexySavage.
R&B isn’t dead. Don’t let persuade you in believing the genre has no hope. Sure, the numbers suck, badly, but there are plenty of talented musicians in the fold. Among the up and coming bright spots in urban contemporary music is Kehlani, who possesses a truly stunning musical instrument. After scoring a Grammy nomination for mixtape You Should Be Here, Kehlani drops her highly anticipated major label debut, SweetSexySavage. It doesn’t disappoint.
“Distraction” is the first highlight from SweetSexySavage. From the beginning, an excellent slow, urban contemporary vibe is constructed. The vocals are confident and sultry, as Kehlani excels in her lower register. On the chorus, she resembles Brandy, in regards to the tone. In addition to her own vocal expertise, vocal production amplifies the performance. Beyond production and vocals, the songwriting is noteworthy as well. An excellent narrative is crafted.
Standout “Undercover” features slick production work, quick tempo, and a sexy vibe. The record makes clever use of the no. 1 Akon hit, “Don’t Matter.” As always, Kehlani delivers clear and captivating vocals. The verses open feistily, explicitly lifting “Don’t Matter” (“You know they don’t wanna see us together / but it don’t matter, no, ‘cause I got you”). Among the best moments is the most cutting-edge as she sings:
“I need you to hit me up, on my fake line / hit that 6-9, yeah, that FaceTime.”
“CRZY” finds Kehlani channeling her inner Rihanna. The gem features distinct, assertive vocals. The reason why Rihanna comparisons arise are thanks to the repetition, gimmickry, and feisty attitude. Lyrically, this isn’t a deep or profound record, but enthusiasm and superb vocals atone for any shortcomings.
“Everything Is Yours”
“Everything Is Yours” goes in the opposite direction of “Not Used to It.” Kehlani pulls back the tempo and tones things down. Her lack of relationship to men transforms into seemingly her first relationship, which was with a girl (she’s bisexual, by the way). Emotionally driven, “Everything is Yours” is among the underrated jewels of SSS. The post-chorus showcases her love for her first:
“My ring is yours (save it, for me) / Everything is yours (save it all for me) / My ring is yours (save it, for me) / Everything is yours.”
While the tone is more emotional than physical, there is a smidge of innuendo as well, part of the genius.
“Advice” is mid-tempo, featuring lush production cues (driving synth, piano, and rhythmic drum programming). Throughout the course of the song, she delivers another smooth vocal. Smoothness carries over into the chorus, which is handled by backing vocals, while Kehlani riffs and ad libs. Her falsetto during the second iteration is particularly stunning. By the second verse, she’s more assertive, ascending higher and packing a mightier punch. The bridge provides superb separation between the other sections of the song.
“Too Much” is about girl power…to an extent. She isn’t tackling feminism, but essentially, she asserts that he can’t handle her – she’s “too much.” Point blank, she’s a strong woman (“Too much of a bad ass b*tch”). The backing harmonized vocals, singing the titular line, are a treat on the chorus.
“Gangsta” concludes SSS, reprised from Suicide Squad: The Album. The concept is simple – she wants a “G” on the edgy, slick joint. It isn’t her grandest crowning achievement, but as always, Kehlani flaunts her awesome set of pipes.
- Pros: Excellent vocals throughout the course of the album; Some great moments and songs overall
- Cons: Some songs lack depth and innovation; Lasts over an hour in duration
Gems: “Distraction,” “Undercover,” “CRZY,” “Everything Is Yours” & “Advice”
Kehlani • SweetSavageSexy • Atlantic • Release: 1.27.17
The full track-by-track review of SweetSexySavage appears on the The Musical Hype.