It always happens doesn’t it? Like Jhene Aiko, like Tinashe, like all the other upcoming female R&B stars who make a name for themselves online with some fresh sounds, and end up being swallowed by their own bloat by the time an album comes round.
So too goes the ballad of Kehlani, the tumultuous star who’s probably had more features to her name than actual tracks, but who rose to prominence with a series of mixtapes and whatnot. And her first stumble comes packaged as SweetSexySavage, an attempt to show off three rounded facets of her personality that ends up coagulating in one generic mass much like the typography of its title.
There’s a lot in here to work with though, and hey, at least she’s giving it a good bash. But that’s the problem: at 17 tracks long, there’s little regard for quality control or indeed restraint as she throws pretty much her entire arsenal at the wall with very little return. She kicks things off with Keep On, but that soon blends into a dozen identikit R&B tracks with a “been-there” aesthetic. Hell, Distraction and Piece of Mind are enough to declare a moratorium on even the remotest trap-leaning beat.
Still, at least her vocals are in order. That’s what keeps this album from completely sinking, and she never sounds better than when we feel like she believes in what she’s singing. Advice, for example, seems like an open documentation of some of her recent very public troubles, a sort of burst of sunshine and aural catharsis that rings authentic.
But at the end of the day there’s nothing here marking out as particularly original, no voice for the fallen that she could adopt and champion. Instead what we get is a series of flimsy R&B missives that just about muster sweet, barely dip into being sexy, and are most certainly not savage enough to give her competition sleepless nights.