Kehlani impresses with “SweetSexySavage”

Sweet (adj): pleasing in general;delightful; pleasant and kind or thoughtful, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Sexy (adj): attractive or exciting; appealing. And Savage (adj): very great; severe; fierce. Add all three and enter the spiritually healing debut studio album released by Berkeley native Kehlani Ashley Parrish, formally known as Kehlani.

Landing the number one album on Billboard R&B chart as of this week, Kehlani’s talented journey is a true come up story beginning with her time spent in the quartet “PopLyfe” as a teenager. Performing throughout the Bay Area, the group auditioned and landed a spot in season six of America’s Got Talent. Finishing in fourth place, the Grammy nominee eventually left the group after taping, headed back to the Bay Area and began working on her first self released mixtape, “Cloud 19.” One year later, after releasing her grammy nominated mixtape “You Should Be Here,” Sean Combs thanked her for saving R&B.  Now dominating 2017, Kehlani prepares for her 60-date world tour to perform the feels-snatching singles that make up “SweetSexySavage.”

Alternating between bangers and ballads, Kehlani’s use of retro beats, piano and guitar in previous works take a seat to make room for the increased 90s flare of uptempo and synthetic beats in singles “CRZY,” and “Do U Dirty,” whose lyrics theme the savageness the symbolic vixens radiate.

Starting with a monologue recited by poet Reyna Biddy, Kehlani dissects women’s essences and displays them through the rest of the album.  Discussing vulnerability, the “sweet” sides of SSS explore the uncertainty and rewards of love. 

“If this isn’t love. Why do I feel this way?” opens “In My Feelings.” Relatable hooks and heavy bass leave heartbroken souls harmonizing about the enticing power raw emotion towards another holds. “Not Used to It” takes the tough, hard headed girl who’s strategically built her protective wall while believing she’s undeserving of love and given her a lifeline. 

But “Get Like” takes you back to the fluffy, sunshine and rainbow mood that is the honeymoon phase as the song chants the tune of that butterfly feeling we all know too well, backed by emotional instrumentals. 

“Distraction” oozes sex appeal as Kehlani lays out her blooming relationship expectations on the top grossing single. The outdated idea that for women, sex is synonymous to a relationship, is quickly shattered by the bridge.

“I need you to give me your time / I need you to not want to be mine,” sings Kehlani. 

This song in particular, like many others on the album, illuminates independence. Kehlani’s a busy girl. Events nationally and internationally, collaborations, fashion shoots and more. She’s focused. Therefore, all the subject can really do is be a distraction. The self grind never stops and a fling won’t be strong enough to halt her many projects.

Experience the emotional rollocaster that is “SweetSexySavage” by stream through Spotify and Apple Music. Catch it live when Kehlani brings her tour to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium June 17.