REVIEW: Kehlani’s latest album seals its SWEETSEXYSAVAGE title

Singer Kehlani Parrish’s sweet voice sings the snappy line, “You think you love me now, I think you should be worried,” leaves fans with a mystifyingly new take on the R&B rising star — she is not to be messed with. “Do U Dirty” is one of many released singles from Kehlani’s 18-song tracklist — SWEETSEXYSAVAGE, which was released on Jan. 27 — and is just one snippet of the story she is telling.

She switches up her narrative from a sweetheart with a soothing voice in “Everything is Yours,” to her seductive persona with soulful swing in “Undercover,” to a bold-voiced artist in “Personal.” The Grammy-nominated singer gets personal with her latest solo project.

As a bisexual artist, Kehlani does not feel the need to distinguish which gender she is referring to as her love interest in her lyrics. When describing the meaning behind her song “Distraction,” she said, “A lot of my songs are about women. Sometimes I don’t say ‘he’ or ‘she’ — I’m just talking. I don’t feel like I have to necessarily go over the top and make sure that I have to stuff it down people’s throats — that I like women and men.”

Kehlani’s struggles with love extend beyond a romantic level. In “Not Used To It,” she stereotypes her family life in the first verse: “Typical story of an Oakland girl / Typical story heard around the world / Mama on her way, daddy up above / After 14 I guess I’m mini tough.”

With pain still lingering from her formative years after her dad passed away and her aunt raised her away from her drug-addicted mother, Kehlani spits out her feelings in verse about how she has a hard time opening up to a man. She longs for not only closure from her sorrow, but also for closeness with a significant other.

Kehlani’s complete exposure to her fans is best illustrated in her album artwork, showing the artist naked but with arms replete with colorful tattoos covering herself up. The Oakland native’s whispering vocals in the beginning of “Escape” hint at her previous timid nature, but it is evident Kehlani has matured musically and emotionally since her beginning days as a finalist on America’s Got Talent with her band PopLyfe.

During the band’s initial audition, judge Piers Morgan advised the then-16-year-old Kehlani, “I think you’ve got real talent, but I don’t think you need the group.” After years of co-signing with other rappers like G-Eazy and Post Malone and recently opening for Amine’s North American shows, the now-21-year-old rising star is solidifying her solo career and leaving fans screaming three words: sweet, sexy and savage.

Leaving 2016 with a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Urban Album for her mixtape You Should Be Here, Kehlani is ready to take on 2017 with her headline tour. Starting Feb. 21 in Montreal, the SweetSexySavage star, accompanied by opening acts Ella Mai, JAKHOY and Noodles, will loop through Europe before making her way back to the United States where she will conclude her tour in Los Angeles June 18 at The Novo.