Everyone has that one friend who laughs through their pain, even if it is not acknowledged. They may crack jokes to lighten the mood and to make those around them feel better, yet their own world is crumbling. We call this person a “strong friend,” and for many, Oakland-born triple threat Kehlani is the epitome of that term.
A courageously-open and talented musician, Kehlani has experienced the highest highs and lowest lows since she was last seen in album-mode. From a highly publicized breakup with rapper YG to the death of one of her closest friends and frequent collaborator rapper Lexii Alijai, to the birth of her first child Adeya, Kehlani has been through it all and then some.
Amid all the real-life drama, Kehlani finds time to put those experiences to pen. The Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter’s latest album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, is inspired by her life over the last three years since her debut project SweetSexySavage. While the growth she has experienced is prevalent on this dose of closure from the pain, Kehlani takes a much slower stride than what her core fans may be used to. The album’s opening track and lead single “Toxic,” is no “Keep On,” but it introduces listeners to the message Kehlani is trying to convey throughout the entire project.
In an interview on Beats 1 Radio, Kehlani revealed that Drake helped her name her album It Was Good Until It Wasn’t as it describes her life. In turn, the album as a whole describes the nature of the relationships she has under her belt. After the opening track, the album begins in a somewhat content space, with Kehlani and fellow R&B singer Tory Lanez trading verses about their most exhilarating moments in the bedroom. The woozy track also features an interpolation of the classic Aaliyah jam “Come Over.”
The project’s title lives up to its name as dreamy lovemaking turns into a nightmare of sexual numbing. Songs like “F&MU” and the repetitive “Water” touch on the virulent role that sex can play in a toxic relationship, and Kehlani effortlessly commenting on the radical changes she goes through in one comparing make-up sex to Maybelline.
On the Masego-assisted “Hate The Club” Kehlani gets super-candid, with the singer commenting on her disdain for the bustling club life over a chill saxophone-infused backdrop in the latter. She sings, “Damn, you know I hate the club / But I came ’cause I knew you’d show up / Maybe if I drank enough / I’ll make my way over to ya.”
With much talk of what happens in her bedroom, Kehlani takes a moment to defend herself against critics who say that she is “for the streets.” The singer declares it is her business whether or not she is “just movin’ all wild, fuckin’ all wild” and “givin’ it up when she’s in town,” over a sample of Pharrell’s “Frontin’” on the album’s centerpiece “Everybody Business.” Kehlani’s ability to reclaim her life over such a tranquil tune makes this one of the highlights of It Was Good Until It Wasn’t.
Moreover, this project contains fairly strong, meticulously-chosen features. “Change Your Life” featuring Jhené Aiko seamlessly blends the style of both artists, with hints of mixtape-Kehlani coming through on the song’s pungent chorus. On the album’s more tender cuts such as “Bad News” and the Lucky Daye-assisted “Can You Blame Me,” Kehlani expresses the willingness to put it all on the line for her partner, even if that loyalty is not reciprocated. The former is one of the stronger songs and doubles as an intimate love song with its haunting vocal sample and moaning piano chords. Kehlani’s message about wanting to settle down and just love the person she is with shine as she sings, “make you wanna give all that shit up.”
Towards the end of the project, the singer calls on songwriter James Blake for “Grieving,” a somber track that addresses the longing Kehlani has for that harmful relationship she gave up on. The final track is a freestyle by the late Alijai, who raps of forgetting about all of the unimportant things in life and focusing on wanting better for yourself and your loved ones; it is a moving tribute that sums up the conclusion that Kehlani has reached by the end of the album.
It Was Good Until It Wasn’t addresses many of Kehlani’s frustrations within her past relationships from the romantic, onset honeymoon phases to heart-wrenching breakups. With hints of cool jazz and mellow pop-infused into this profound new sound, Kehlani may shake the table for fans of her past work, yet attract the attention of a broader audience in the process.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Stream It Was Good Until It Wasn’t by Kehlani below.
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