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A Track-By-Track First Impression Of Kehlani’s ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’

Written By Sam Murphy on 05/13/2020
Kehlani

While Kehlani has been very busy in between, it’s been three years since she last dropped an album. Thankfully, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t has arrived after a slow drip of excellent singles. Let’s see if that quality holds up throughout.

Toxic

Toxic is a surprising beginning to the album. Kehlani has often opened her records with sunnier moments but this isn’t like her other albums. It’s clear she’s going deeper and darker. Cutting vague ideas in favor of vivid, raw lyrics.

Can I (Feat. Tory Lanez)

From the minute this record dropped, Can I stood out as the obvious hit. It flips Aaliyah’s Come Over continuing the bedroom theme of the song and taking it even nastier. These lyrics are as explicit as they come and it’s cool to hear them come from Kehlani’s mouth rather than he Drakes and Weeknds of the world. Tory Lanez’ verse is equally dirty but there’s something about Kehlani’s voice that gets it across the line.

Bad News

The first real heart-tugger of the record. The credits for this album are stacked but it’s just Kehlani and Jahaan Sweet on this one and the intimacy pays off. The beat is immediately arresting with its elongated synths under Kehlani’s flawless vocal. Given the year Kehlani has had, there’s something chilling about hearing her sing, “Don’t wanna get no call with no bad news.”

Real Hot Girl Skit

We would’ve paid good money for a Megan Thee Stallion feature but we’ll settle for a skit.

Water

Back to the bedroom on this one as Kehalni takes us through astrology. This one is so nasty and a side that she rarely showed on SexySweetSavage. She pulls it off effortlessly here though coming through with a hook that minimalist but so immersive – “water, water, water”.

Change Your Life (Feat. Jhene Aiko)

We heard this one at the tail-end of the All Me video but now it’s here in its full form with Jhene Aiko. Aiko and Kehlani occupy different R&B spaces but they feel a little like kindred spirits in terms of their calming demeanor. Unsurprisingly, on Change Your Life, they take it slow, serving velvety vocals and a comforting mission statement.

Belong To The Streets Skit

People have spoken shit about Kehlani’s relationships since the beginning and she’s here to reclaim her narrative.

Everybody Business

Everybody Business describes Kehlani and addresses all the drama better than any of her songs ever have. Over a soulful, guitar-laden beat she lets us know that she dives into everything head-on because she’s passionate. “I beg you don’t listen, I beg you just hear me,” may be the whole ethos of this album.

Hate The Club (Feat. Masego)

What strikes you immediately about IWGUIW is how rich the production is. This one in particular is infused with subtle jazz elements that provide a velvety backdrop for Kehlani’s voice. Here, she’s headed to the club on the off chance that she’ll bump into a certain someone.

Serial Lover

One of the biggest themes of this record is Kehlani’s passion that, for better or for worse, has her rushing into relationships. On Serial Lover she sings, “I think I should be single for a while,” over one of the more introspective beats on the record. “Love hard, fuck harder,” is one seriously bold hook but that’s the nature of this raw LP.

F&MU

We know and we love this one. It’s the bedroom anthem of the record and it’s ice cold. Kehlani dishes out one-liners on this album like she’s a rapper and this one is full of them. “We fuck and make up like it’s Maybelline,” is one for the books.

Can You Blame Me (Feat. Lucky Daye)

This whole album is so deep in its feelings but also brutally honest about every topic. Can You Blame Me details a toxic relationship but Kehlani admits, “I would rather argue than me sleep alone.” The beat swells and circles, hypnotizing without having to create any momentous climax. Lucky Daye also offers one of the best features on the album with his verse.

Grieving (Feat. James Blake)

You just knew when you looked at the tracklist that this was going to be a heartbreaker and it’s exactly that. The beat on this, led by Boi1da, is the best on the record. It’s so rich with textures with everything from water to birds running through it. Melodically, the chorus doesn’t detour too much from the verse but the beat gently climaxes in the most subtle but beautiful way. Then we get James Blake’s melancholic verse and the heart shatters. This is Kehlani’s favourite song of the set and it’s easy to see why.

Open (Passionate)

Once again, we have Kehlani addressing both physical and emotional intimacy with poignancy. “Do you got me way too open to be open,” she sings questioning the relationship between sharing her feelings and sharing her body. The beat for the first portion of the song is late night, bedroom-ready but it switches midway through upping the tension and switching sides. “Oh, you’re passionate, baby,” as if she may be singing to herself.

Lexii’s Outro

Late rapper Lexii Aliijai had been with Kehlani since her first mixtape and her spirit lingers all over the album. Appropriately, Kehlani gives her the final word with a potent verse about knowing what you want and going out and getting it. It’s an inspiring and bittersweet closer to the album.

Overall

This is without a doubt the best project Kehlani has ever released. She addresses the drama but also shuts out the noise, making something that’s uniquely her and pandering to nobody. It’s an icy, explicit and raw R&B project that moves from bedroom bangers to emotional freefalls. Its cohesiveness proves that while she’s a versatile artist, her strengths are best showcased in the R&B/soul arena.