It didn’t take long for Oakland singer/songwriter and former PopLyfe lead vocalist Kehlani to reach superstardom, and of course her signing to beast Atlantic Records two years ago greatly helped to quicken the process. The now twenty-one year old talent found a golden oil wellspring of success with her breakout 2015 mixtape You Should Be Here, which was just about lauded across the board for the new flavor of contemporary pop and r&b she fashioned on the project.
Now, Kehlani’s proper studio debut has the stuff that major, mainstream chart-clingers are made of. Aside from being stocked with typical love wanderings and some roars of womanly self-determination, SweetSexySavage (which is more of the first two descriptors in its title than the last) is ok, not too irrational or radical and not too unconfident or undecided, despite Kehlani’s fairly frequent back-and-forths in the area of romance, embracing connection with her lover one moment and then dancing in the street for splitting up later on down the road.
Critical of her own self in love but also judgmental of her partners’ shortcomings, Kehlani touches on both sides of the relationship spectrum. She goes through several emotions, feeling ashamed, chancy and open-minded, fortunate to be in rebuild mode after heartache, inadequate, sassy and of course, both lovely and lovey-dovey, not often at the same time though.
The only moment Kehlani hits on something other than a mate or her love-life is in “Not Used To It,” when she briefly discusses the absence of parents in her and her friends’ lives, losing said friends, and finding false refuge and solace in the streets. Other than that, SweetSexySavage is your traditional roundup of ooey gooey infatuation joints from a giant music industry house. Assuming she has actually experienced or is experiencing in real life the very feelings and events she sings about here, Kehlani is generous and touching in her outpouring of sincere emotions. Despite the pop veneer, she more or less comes off sounding like a real woman and human being. She’s not perfect, but what human is?