Kehlani – ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ Album Review

Kehlani-Press-Photo Credit: Arturo Torres

Kehlani’s third studio album It Was Good Until It Wasn’t was released on May 8th, 2020. The artist went live on YouTube from her home on the day of its release to answer fan questions about the album. All music videos were created “quarantine style” as well. She states that most of her songs were more melancholic and moody rather than upbeat, since that’s the place she’s at emotionally. Kehlani went through a rocky relationship with YG while working on the album, and says her attitude was constantly changing. While listening to It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, we hear separate songs rather than one full story, which resonates with Kehlani’s life during the period of time while creating the project.

The album is made in a pop and alt-R&B style, seemingly influenced by Rihanna and perhaps PARTYNEXTDOOR. Kehlani pays homage to Aaliyah’s “Come Over” in “Can I”, and we do hear some classic R&B tracks throughout the album. She touches upon the good part of a relationship in “Water.” The track was the most fun song to make on the album for Kehlani and her team. It is very sexual, with use of astrological water signs as a symbol for passion and depth of the relationship. “Change Your Life” features Jhené Aiko, who came into the field before Kehlani and as the musician acknowledges by singing, “paved the way for girls like me.” R&B isn’t only about love songs anymore; it’s also a deep dive into one’s mind and soul. Jhené was very prompt with sending her verse to Kehlani and both loved working together on the collaboration.

Dedicated to those who speak about Kehlani, gossiping and making rumors up, the song “Everybody Business” has a gentle and kind classic R&B sound. None of it surprises her anymore and she’s just asking her listeners to ignore the drama. In “Serial Lover”, made in a similar style, Kehlani is owning the fact that she’s always falling hard for someone. She wants to explain that she’s not some “half-ass lover”, and wants her future significant other to know that she is deeply affectionate and dedicated when she’s in a relationship.

It Was Good...

Kehlani speaks a lot about the complexity of relationships: “Open (Passionate)”, “F&MU”. The track “Toxic” featuring Ty Dolla $ign might be about her breakup with YG, who always struggled to be faithful. “Can’t Blame Me” featuring Lucky Daye speaks on how it’s better to have bad emotions and express them rather than lose the person whatsoever. “Hate The Club” featuring Masego, highlights the feeling of going to a place where your crush will be, but not having enough courage to speak to them.

Asking her lover to change his dangerous lifestyle in “Bad News” might be a reflection of her father being killed in a gang-related situation. In the song Kehlani sings, “When you’re with me, you’re safe.” She doesn’t want to receive that upsetting call and just wants him to give it up. The lyrics in song “Grieving” featuring James Blake are different than the rest of the album. They are about grief for a relationship ending, even though it was the right choice. James Blake adds indie sound, making the track unique.

“It Was Good Until It Wasn’t” contains three skits. The first one, “Real Hot Girl Skit”, is by Megan Thee Stallion where she brags about how bad everybody wants her. It’s a play on her coined phrase “real hot girl sh*t.” Second skit, “Belong To The Streets Skit”, is a short recording on sexism and the fact that a woman is considered trashy if she’s often seen with different men. The final song of the project is “Lexii’s Outro”, which is a full verse of Lexii Alijai, a fellow rapper and dear friend of Kehlani. Lexii passed away on New Years day, prior to the album’s release. This song was hardest to produced to due the heavy grief Kehlani experienced. She dedicated her whole album to her and wanted the song on the album to celebrate Lexii’s life and journey. Overall, the album doesn’t seem tied together musically as much as it is lyric-wise. As Kehlani said herself, the way she felt changed while making music for It Was Good Until It Wasn’t: she felt happiness, loss, ups and downs of being in a relationship.

Written by: Rachel Shubayeva

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