Kehlani has never been afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve, especially when it comes to detailing the searing pain of a failed relationship. Setting the bar high for any artist looking to master the art of quarantine, the Oakland native is back with her sophomore album ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’. Reclaiming her strength, vulnerability and time from those who took her kindness for weakness, Kehlani is embracing the woman she’s grown to become today. Three years post-release from her first studio album ‘SweetSexySavage’, the R&B songstress refuses to hold back on her emotions, delivering fifteen silky-yet-sultry tracks that invite you into her heart.
Despite facing many triumphs and tragedies since 2017, Kehlani has taken her darkest moments and turned them around by continuing to gift the world with her music. From being a mum to going through a public breakup with YG, she’s always found time to release a majestic project that proves why she holds an essential position in R&B. In between delivering a plethora of non-album singles like ‘Honey’, ‘All Me’ and ‘You Know Wassup’; she put out her third mixtape While We Wait, which ultimately was an early insight as to what she had would be her gifting on this album.
Channelling her deep and introspective journey of self-discovery, ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ breaks the mould of what a heartbreak-to-recovery album is supposed to imitate. Tracks like ‘Water’, ‘Grieving’ featuring James Blake and ‘Serial Lover’ resonate deeply with anyone looking to gain some growth and prosperity post-breakup. Having delivered tracks ‘Toxic’ and ‘Everybody’s Business’ which were accompanied by her DIY quarantine style self-shot and edited music videos, Kehlani is letting go of any demons that were holding her back.
Unveiling the cover art for the album via Instagram on her birthday, she speaks on the meaning behind the idea. “The album cover is a depiction of the never-ending duality of ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ It’s a tale of perspective,” says Kehlani. “The sun is shining, the sky is blue, but clearly something has gotten my attention. Paired with the back cover, we come into the question of is the grass really greener on the other side? Good things are good...until they aren’t. Then, were they ever really good?”
The opening track on the album ‘Toxic’ offers a dark but not surprising ‘fuck you’ as she subliminally waves goodbye to a toxic ex. Singing in a deep but sweet melodic tone, she openly speaks her truth with giving a care in the world of what anybody thinks. “You know that dick always been problematic, somehow, I’m always caught in your dramatics” is easily the most memorable line in the song. The theme of ‘wanting something she doesn’t need’ continues to track two ‘Can I Live’ where she teams up with the king of quarantine himself Tory Lanez. Her straight-talking sexy tone prepares you Tory’s light lyric tenor vocals as the two feed off of each other’s emotions. “The shit’s so good it should be illegal, need round two I need a sequel”.
The stand out tracks for me are the ones where she speaks on freeing herself from situations of uncertainty by offering ways of transition to better oneself. Tracks ‘Can You Blame Me’ featuring Lucky Daye, and ‘Open (Passionate)’ provide a level for subduing and healing that demands your attention. In many ways, the album opens your mind into questioning what the proper etiquette required for coming out of a relationship that didn’t benefit you is. Her voice carries a kind of pain that is recognisable to many and songs like ‘Change Your Life’ featuring Jhene Aiko round up strong reasons as to why this album is her most solid project yet. “Baby, let me change your life, you wanna see (everything), that you can be anything you want (anything)”.
Her last-minute collaboration with Jhene Aiko is an easy reminder that the R&B girls can provide at all times. This collaboration comes as a sweet treat that we’ve all been waiting for, and it was truly worth the wait. While the album skits like ‘Real Hot Girl Skit’ featuring Megan The Stallion and ‘Belong To The Streets’ threw me off, ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ ultimately provides the soundtrack to a quarantined summer. Choosing to close her album with a track featuring the late rapper Lexii Alijai, who passed away back in January, the album wraps up as a perfect tribute honouring the person she loved like a ‘little sister’.
With Kehlani, it’s clear that the music comes first and always will. ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ feels like her way of paying homage to her former self by burying any pain and love lost she’s experienced since ‘SweetSexySavage’. The result of an exhausting breakup and the pressures of motherhood has worked in her favour. The albums arrangement of serenading beats and jazzy undertones has genuinely proven that Kehlani is a force to be reckoned with.
In fact, we can only applaud Kehlani for being courageous and sticking to her guns with the release of ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ during a pandemic. This is her best project to date. Hats off to you Kehlani.
Words: Shakeena Johnson
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