Baring emotion in music is essentially the backbone of what makes the art so great. We can learn so much about the artist and ourselves from notes and expressions traveling through sound space to our ears for our listening pleasure. On her debut album, “SweetSexySavage,” R&B singer Kehlani shows what those three words mean for her.
The album starts with Kehlani apologizing to anyone she’s hurt and anything she’s done that negatively affected anyone. She then goes on to say how she’s stronger than before and a super woman, setting up the tone for the album. The first song “Keep On” has Kehlani talking about someone who keeps taking her back despite her ego and attitude. Finger snaps for snares and groovy bass line with Kehlani’s lounge singer voice make this track stand out immediately, getting the album off on the right note.
Tracks like “Escape” and “Piece of Mind” see Kehlani pining after a lover and making sure things work for her and them then showing her joy finding what she desires. These two tracks are some of the more emotional tracks on the LP and in today’s hook-based R&B, it’s a return to form to hear emotion from the singer as well as vocal range.
While “SweetSexySavage” does a lot of things right, it’s not without flaws. Clocking in at just under an hour the album can feel repetitive or drag at times and toward the last few tracks you may be wondering how much more can be said that hasn’t been already. The album would benefit from cutting a few songs at the back that all end of blending together. There’s also the chorus on the track “Not Used To It” that at first sounds like “I know he’s suing” not “I’m not used to it.” which can take listeners out of an emotionally charged song.
All of that aside, Kehlani shows emotional and vocal range on her debut LP and the production is top notch from beginning to end. Rarely does she rely on hooks to get her point across even though they appear on nearly every track. Kehlani also doesn’t resort to used the same 808 sound effects and drum patterns that have been run into the ground lately by other pop and R&B acts and that says a lot about her.
At its core “SweetSexySavage” is a lounge stage for Kehlani to show us what makes her tick and what get her fired up emotionally. There are chill party tunes, mood songs and stirring emotional pieces here giving a little something for everyone. Kehlani may not have reinvented the wheel when it comes to artistic expression, but in an age when hooks are everything, a return to form is more than welcome.