Getting hurt is never fun. Bay Area native Kehlani teased this new batch of material for months. Fans have been early waiting for her best project yet. And here she mostly delivers just that. Despite my past critiques, Kehlani is one of the few ear-catching R&B acts left in the game. Following a public break-up with Compton rapper YG, it seems as though she took the proper time to step back and reassess things. I applaud her poise through all of the lies the media told about her and their relationship. Although their time together didn’t last long, here she refines her character, building a foundation of self-love and self-discovery. While It Was Good Until It Wasn’t is not an instant classic, it is in fact a step in the right direction for Kehlani’s sound. Album opener “Toxic” has its flaws but gets the ball rolling nicely.
The tracks that stood out the most to me are as follows. “Grieving” featuring James Blake… Yes. James continues his hot streak dating back to early last year. Here he brings his more experimental vibe to Kehlani’s commercial aesthetic, which is a welcome change of pace. “F&MU” is easily the most clever track on It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, an element often missing from much of her lyrical catalog. It’s a simple wittiness, but it hits all the right spots for me. Also, “Serial Lover” takes the cake as this album’s signature track, in my opinion. Boi-1da and company’s instrumental never tries to do too much while accentuating the smoothness of Kehlani’s vocals. Unfortunately, though, a bulk of the music found on this album comes off flat and relatively unexciting. In spite of Kehlani’s luscious vocal tone, she rarely pushes and/or challenges her voice to reach new creative heights.
Thus generating an air of redundancy throughout this record. From a musical standpoint, these 13 songs lack breadth and progression on a regular basis. The beats mostly loop into stagnation without actualizing into a unique listening experience. Additionally, the rudimentary song structures presented here feel more like sung diary entries than fleshed-out songs. Her lyrics, although heartfelt and personal, which I appreciate, have a tendency to merely scratch the surface more often than not. However, that is not the case on tracks such as “Open (Passionate)” and “Hate the Club.” During these two particular efforts Kehlani shows her artistic courage, spilling her innermost thoughts upon the page. Alas, this album leaves a lot of potential on the table. The hype far outweighs the quality here as Kehlani’s creative vision remains blurry at best. Yet she improves with consistency with each passing year, more than most can say.
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