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The Vermont Cynic

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R&B artist delivers female power on her first album

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Making music is the most effective outlet for personal expression, and a single lyric or melody often reveals a vivid profile of the artist themselves.

With the recent release of her new album, titled “SweetSexySavage ” Jan. 27, up-and-coming R&B artist Kehlani Ashley Parrish, aka “Kehlani,” breaks down emotional barriers with authentic songs that suggest both empowerment and past mistakes, painting a portrait of herself.

Kehlani, a singer-songwriter originally from Oakland, California, rose to national attention with a run on “America’s Got Talent” in 2011 as a member of the group Poplyfe.

Before “SweetSexySavage,” Kehlani released two mixtapes, “Cloud 19” ( 2014) and “You Should Be Here” ( 2015). The latter received a Grammy nomination in 2016 for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

At once edgy and spiritual, “SweetSexy Savage” sends a message to listeners that is pure, honest and unapologetic.  

In the intro track of the album, listeners are welcomed by the lush words of poet Reyna Biddy:

“My condolences to anyone who has ever lost me/ And, to anyone who got lost in me/….I’m a holy woman/ I know what it’s like to give life to a being…. I’ve practiced how to hold my tongue long enough….The truth is, I’m a superwoman/ And some days I’m an angry woman/ And some days I’m a crazy woman….”

The entire monologue, which lasts for a mere 59 seconds, sets the tone for the rest of the album. It evokes vulnerability, anger, strength and freedom, yet also an acute sense of identity.

Although Kehlani embodies the “holy woman” image of the intro, she is still human, and makes mistakes just like anyone else. This concept is best summed up in “Advice,” where she chides herself for not listening to the voices in her own head.

In tracks like “Piece of Mind,” “ Keep On” and “ Too Much,” the artist sings of romantic entanglements, emotional growth and self-respect.  

Other highlights of “ SweetSexySavage” include “ CRZY” and “Do U Dirty,” songs that address a harder side of Kehlani’s image, full of sexual confidence and swagger. “Swear you see the good in me/ but that don’t beat the hood in me,” she says in “ Do U Dirty”.

“SweetSexySavage” is an album that should be noted for its clever and engaging delivery of the artist’s personal facets, resulting in an authentic sound. Old and new listeners should keep an ear out for Kehlani. She’s just getting started, and she has a lot to say.

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The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883
R&B artist delivers female power on her first album