Album Review: Crash // Kehlani

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Four albums in, it can be hard to know whether to expect more of the same or a new sound from an artist. Kehlani has settled somewhere in between on their fourth album Crash. It’s an album that embodies the R&B sound they have become known for, but also experiments with different sounds and genres to prevent stagnation as an artist. Of the album, Kehlani said in a statement, “Each creator crafting out of pure joy, passion & the hunger to carefully craft a new sound. We didn’t know what to call this album, what genre it was, where it would land. We only knew we arrived”. The 13 tracks that make up Crash proved that they knew what they were talking about. 

From the get-go, there is a malleability in each song and the album as a whole. The opening track ‘GrooveTheory’ opens with a country-rock feel, with heavy guitars leading the intro. However, about a minute in, the gears change, with an extremely fun effect in which we hear someone scrolling through radio channels before settling on a new track, one that is much more reminiscent of what we have come to expect from the artist. A sultry number with spacey production, it creates an otherworldliness which is aided by heavy synth-usage. It’s a very strong place to start. This transcendental aura is continued into the second track ‘Next 2 U’, which served as the second single following lead single, ‘After Hours’. While a thematic shift (‘Next 2 U’ is much harsher in its tone, as Kehlani threatens those trying to get close to their lover), there is a consistency musically, layering her vocals to create an ethereal, slightly uncanny quality. 

Consistency is the perfect word to describe the instrumental make-up of the album. There is exploration across genres throughout Crash: its samples range from Cordell Burrell’s ‘Coolie Dance Rhythm’ to Christina Aguilera’s ‘What a Girl Wants’, and influences include dance, rock, country, and even traditional Indian music on ‘Sucia’. However, despite this willingness to find new sounds, there is a distinct cohesion, with the track listing perfectly ordered to create a holistic listening experience. 

Lyrically, Kehlani is the same tongue-in-cheek writer they have always been, and yet their playfulness never gets in the way of sincerity. The whole album feels deeply unapologetically themselves, in a nuanced way that captures their identity as a multifaceted person beyond just ‘the artist’. They are sensual, as demonstrated, in ‘8’, which feels like the lesbian response to Ariana Grande’s sexy maths number, ‘34+35’. In the lyrics they flirt with their lover, “I’m in the mood, you know what to do / Treat this like some food / Ten minus two with you / Ain’t the point of cake, just to eat it too / I’m tryna get ate”. 

Kehlani isn’t just sexual however, but deeply romantic, as seen on tracks like the titular “Crash” as they want to just stay in the moment with their love: “Baby just lie here and crash / Land your love on me / Oh baby, crash / like there’s no gravity.” 

The album ends with the more acoustic folky track, ‘Lose My Wife’. It’s a number which winds down from the electrically charged rhythm of the majority of the album, to form a soft close. This is a trend that popular artists like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo have utilised in recent years. With its background noise of people talking, it feels like somebody picking up a guitar and playing a song at the end of the night at a party, and it’s a genius place to end. After 13 songs of relational and musical exploration, Kehlani sings with gentle acceptance of their shortcomings, with a recognition that this is who they are. 

The whole album is an act of self-love; a journey of recognition to get to the point where the final song lands. It’s an artist doing something they love, and having fun using their music to lay themselves bare. That demonstrable passion makes it well worth your time. 

Words by Rehana Nurmahi


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