Kehlani Wins The Critics Over

Few singers have been able to demand attention the way Kehlani has, but it’s also because she’s remained in the headlines for things that have nothing to do with music. Many fans are already aware that Kehlani and PARTYNEXTDOOR have sung about their past relationship, and her new relationship with rap star YG has also caused quite a bit of controversy. Kehlani addresses it all in her new project, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, and she might have just created her most complete album to date.

Kehlani Wins The Critics Over
photo credit: Julian Myles

Kehlani is 25 and has been famous for about five years now. She has collaborated with icons like Eminem and Justin Bieber, so it’s not as if her career isn’t headed in the right direction. However, her relationships have often played out a certain way in the tabloids, and the project addresses it all head-on.

Kehlani admits her faults over some incredible production here, while it’s also clear to the listener that she isn’t afraid to have fun and speak her truth at the same time. If you’re looking for songs about drunkenly reaching out to an ex, admitting how toxic you are, or just acknowledging that you might not know what to look for a partner: this album has it all. This album isn’t the music that you celebrate in the club, it’s the kind of music that you play at home, offering more airy soundscapes than your average R&B trap hits.

“Toxic” is everyone’s favorite word these days, and it’s a solid introduction to the project. Here, Kehlani is more introspective than usual, and the buildup here grabs the listener’s attention. The next song, “Can I”, is one of the song’s standout songs, with Tory Lanez and Kehlani fitting in individual pockets of the beat that creates for one of the catchiest sex anthems of the year. She switches between bragging about her sex game and offering humorous lines like: “Last so long, bae, you’re a trooper / Sniper gang, no Bradley Cooper.”

“Bad News” is a sultry song that gets a bit deeper than one might expect: it’s clear that she is juxtaposing her relationship with YG with the fact that her father was also involved in a gang. “Water” is a pulsating beast of a song, and is the kind of poppy hit that might end up becoming one of Kehlani’s biggest hits to date.

The song is almost exactly what you’d expect from Kehlani – which is why this album is so compelling. It seems that Kehlani knows what she’s doing with guests like Tory Lanez and Jhene Aiko, but she does something interesting. Many singers follow a specific blueprint, searching for the right beat to collaborate with artists like 6Lack, Tyga, or Ty Dolla Sign in hopes of a mainstream hit. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that…it appears that Kehlani had something different in mind.

“Hate The Club” is an incredible song about introversion (and possibly alcoholism), and the feature is not one you may have expected: Masego. For those who are unaware, Masego is a Jamaican-born musician who has been gaining more international attention for several years. The collaboration is easily one of the best songs on the album, and once you realize that she also has songs with James Blake – you realize that Kehlani might care more about the critics than the radio these days. Of course, radio still plays an important role in Kehlani’s career – but the young woman might have her eyes on more than just playing a numbers game.

Kehlani has a rabid fan base of young women who are eager to party or post photos with cryptic Instagram captions, and she still offers them the right lyrics for these captions, whether it’s I think I’m addicted to romance (“Serial Lover”), I’m going to make it hard to ignore me (“F & MU”),

I might not be the biggest Kehlani fan in the world, and if I am being honest, I don’t think she’s proved herself the way that other artists like SZA and Ari Lennox have. She is

However, this is a huge step in the right direction, and there’s a good chance that this album will serve as a turning point for her in the future. I might not be her target demographic, and there’s a good chance that I won’t return to this album too often – but it’s a solid project that cannot be denied. All fans can ask for is for artists to evolve while also staying true to their core, and Kehlani has done precisely that. Don’t be surprised to find that It Was Good Until It Wasn’t ends up getting rave reviews out there.