The life of an artist can sometimes be a tumultuous one. Things only become muddier when you are well known and trying to grow within your career. 21-year-old Kehlani Parrish had a rough 2016, which included a suicide attempt, and her split with NBA star Kyrie Irving becoming public fodder (which was further exacerbated by an infantile IG post by then ex-boyfriend PARTYNEXTDOOR, which wrongly inferred that she cheated on Irving). The internet then took off running with assumptions of Kehlani cheating, unfair accusations of the incident being a publicity stunt for “attention,” and more. Kehlani took a step back to get herself right, and came back with a new look. Soon after, she announced and began to release singles from her new album SweetSexySavage, which released a matter of days ago.
Kehlani’s music this year has a different tone. Her approach on previous projects always came from the place of a young woman passionately expressing the kind of love she sought to possess, then later in her career, the heights of meeting her match. Her music was hopeful, but you could always feel the undercurrent of her darker experiences. She knows that better is out there, and that she will get there, but is still somewhat bogged down by past suffering.
SweetSexySavage is freedom. Kehlani has suffered through plenty, but is becoming fully realized as she climbs out of that hole. The album starts with a spoken word intro, where she properly sets the scene; you will accept her as she is and she is letting go of all past romantic regrets. The first song, “Keep On” is about how regardless of her shortcomings as a love interest, a specific suitor continues to keep her around. She seems almost amazed at this development, while also being flattered and appreciative.
Kehlani spends the duration of this album being honest about who she is, and the things that happened to her. “Piece Of Mind” anchors the entire ethos of the album; she is trying to free herself from the pain of past relationships (break off a “piece”) while trying to revert back to when she was at peace with herself. The song is very well-written, and really plainly lays out where Kehlani was emotionally, and where she wants to be. “Personal” is where she talks as openly as she ever has about the PartyNextDoor situation (“You admitted that I am the truth/Look at your face/Looking sad in the booth”). The song is beautiful in a way, as she is growing past it and taking life as it comes.
As the album continues on, Kehlani sings even more earnestly about love. The album takes this to its purest effect on “Hold Me By The Heart”, an acoustic guitar driven song where she sings about her rebirth from all of her struggles, and being raised to new heights by a loving partner. She has finally found someone who cares, someone who understands her. Isn’t that what we all desire?
To see Kehlani’s growth has been a wonderful ride, and she’s won me over as a fan with this latest album. I will always appreciate honesty and vulnerability in music; SweetSexySavage has it in droves. Creating can be cathartic; Kehlani’s outlet is her music and she doesn’t cheat the process; the good, bad and the ugly are all present here.