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Album: Kehlani - CRASH | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Kehlani - CRASH

Album: Kehlani - CRASH

A rich and bewitching brew from an ever-creative R&B new-schooler

'Weird, funny, exploratory, articulate, pansexual and gender-blending, the full package'

The noise in the international mainstream in recent years might be about dance-pop, hip hop beefs and the serious balladry of Taylor, Billie and Lana – yet at the same time, R&B has been strange, brilliant, ultra-popular, but generated a tiny fraction of the column inches and “discourse”.

Jhene Aiko, Tinashe, SZA, H.E.R., Mahalia: these are radical artists, each making fascinating music that generates billions of streams, yet certainly in the UK they’re generating micro-fractions of the column inches that their contemporaries in other genres are. The reaction to SZA’s Glastonbury headlining announcement – which included a very loud collective “WHO?” despite her monthly listenership being bigger than Coldplay’s – speaks volumes here.

The frustration is that modern R&B is precisely kind of thing that could be fuelling all manner of critical discussion. It may not be as ebullient as the glory days of the early 00s when Neptunes, Darkchild, Timbaland and Missy beats ruled the roost, but it is intense, introspective, richly layered, often mindblowing in its musicianship, and has a surprisingly deep psychedelic undercurrent to boot. And an artist like Oakland born and raised Kehlani is everything you might want from a star: weird, funny, exploratory, articulate, pansexual and gender-blending, the full package – not to mention still, after three albums and three mixtapes, making fascinating music.

That said, sometimes “fascinating” can also mean confusing. This is a hell of a record, with plenty of straightforward brilliance on it. The big single “After Hours” bounds along on a Caribbean-sounding syncopation, “Sucia” is a true piece of modern psychedelic soul with Jill Scott’s croon adding to the salacious silkiness of it and Puerto Rican star Young Miko’s Spanish rap embellishing it perfectly, while “Tears” is a luscious, airborne dance track, neatly incorporating South African amapiano bass. But having that up against the histrionic rock power balladeering of “Crash” or “Vegas” can make for a bamboozling flavour profile. Make no mistake, this is a phenomenal talent at work, channelling the bloody-minded brilliance of mavericks like Prince and Janelle Monae – and this album is 100% worth your time – but with so much stylistic swerving and theatricality crammed into a relatively small space, it takes quite a bit of unpicking, to say the least.

@joemuggs

Listen to "Next 2 U":

With so much stylistic swerving and theatricality crammed into a relatively small space, it takes quite a bit of unpicking

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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