Jair Hilburn, Editor-In-Chief
Last year, Kehlani’s EP While We Wait was released alongside singles “You Know Wassup” and “Valentine’s Day (Shameful).” It’s been over three years since Kehlani released her debut album, SweetSexySavage. Successful songs like “Gangsta” and “Honey” garnered my excitement for an upcoming album. With It Was Good Until It Wasn’t being her new album, I have to say that it was worth the wait.
Whenever I hear albums tackle love, I like to hear where they go with it and at what points they teeter on being cliché. Although It Was Good Until It Wasn’t isn’t a “raw and lay it all on the table” type of album, Kehlani makes it apparent how it draws from her life. That transparency is what makes every lyric and song resonate with audiences after countless listens.
The album starts with Kehlani lamenting on where she was prior to where she is now on “Toxic.” Dark times come to mind as the album progresses, but it’s near impossible to forget about the good ones too. “Toxic” has simple 808-production with lyrics that get you thinking of that one person you’d rather forget.
“I get real accountable when I’m alone // I get real about it all when I’m alone”
Songs like “Change Your Life” & “F&MU” offer a more beat-focused production level that makes the tracks stand out while maintaining cohesion.
“Water” flows into the intimate side of relationships. On “Can I,” Kehlani and Tory Lanez are two lovers who aren’t afraid to talk about what sensual aspects they bring to the table. The interpolations of Aaliyah’s “Come Over” are refreshing by serving a sexual twist on the late R&B legends’ hit.
Amidst all the lust, there was something building under the surface. On “Bad News” (one of my top 5 tracks off the album), Kehlani reminisces over a lover she’s willing to stand beside and guide into a new lifestyle. Her vocals fly over a piano and light percussion and provoke the feeling that you’re pleading for more. Multiple tracks on the album evoke the energy of fighting for what – in this case, who – you love
It Was Good Until It Wasn’t takes a more somber tone in the album’s latter act. “Hate the Club,” shows Kehlani stuck on someone while entering space outside of her comfort zone and yearning for whom she desires. Her indecision transitions with Lucky Daye singing about how pride will come before the fall on “Can You Blame Me.” Then we plunge into the next track.
Kehlani and James Blake hit us while we’re down on “Grieving.” Blake’s signature sound meshes well with the tone Kehlani establishes thus far in the album. “Grieving” mourns leaving something that was once precious behind. It’s still an open-hearted track that shows the bright side of choosing to leave.
“The option was to stay and ride // Or to let it die // I picked a side, now I’m just grievin’”
The album ends with “Lexii’s Outro.” This song pays homage to the late Lexii Ailjai who passed earlier this year after an accidental overdose. “Lexii’s Outro” is a perfect conclusion – sonically and lyrically – that serves as the final message of the album: “Misery love company, don’t ever let these niggas keep you down/ Matter of fact, don’t let ’em see you down.”
It Was Good Until It Wasn’t shows how love stories can be beautiful but have murky ends.
Kehlani palatably masters R&B production throughout the album with her own unique style. Tight chords and layered vocals create a synthetic sound that you’ll feel embraced after falling into. Kehlani managed to make a refreshingly open album while showcasing all her talents. That’s why It Was Good Until It Wasn’t will be one of 2020’s best albums.