Kehlani’s New Album: “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t” Puts Toxic Relationships on Blast
While it is evident that this quarantine has put the world in a standstill, Kehlani seems to have dedicated this moment of pause for self-reflection and healing. It was Good Until It Wasn’t is only Kehlani’s second studio album, yet the intimacy and vulnerability this project offers is immensely transformative. It is not as if Kehlani as an artist hasn’t always been transparent in her music – but It Was Good Until It Wasn’t feels as if she is giving her fans complete access to her inner thoughts or diary entries.
It Was Good Until It Wasn’t takes you on a journey of a myriad of toxic relationships and co-dependency patterns that Kehlani is trying desperately to find a way out of within these tracks. Sonically, these tracks reflect that sense of yearning and craving for this toxicity by eliciting seductive and hypnotizing sensations. Kehlani uses her silky, warm vocals and pairs it with high-hats and light piano keys to expose this theme of temptation that lingers throughout the album.
Tracks like “Water” and “F&MU” showcase Kehlani surrendering to this attraction she has to these toxic partners. These tracks also illicit a double edge sword, in which Kehlani finds herself allured and inexplicably drawn to the very qualities in these partners that are also lethal to her heart.
This addiction to love itself is something that not only becomes visible to Kehlani but also to the media. On the track “Everybody Business,” Kehlani directly addresses the claims and rumors of her being a serial monogamist. She speaks on how these rumors are yet another form of toxicity that clouds her judgment, portraying how powerful her will to love and be loved in return is.
The acoustic guitar chords run circles around her vocals like a tornado as she sings, “At my big ol’ age, I can’t be fazed. By what you mistake as going insane. Like I’m movin all wild, fuckin all wild, runnin my mouth. Like I’m throwin it back, givin it up when I’m in town.”
This is when Kehlani starts shifting her mindset from seeing her love for herself as something weak and transforms it into her kryptonite. Juxtaposing this earlier theme of sensuality are tracks like “Hate The Club” and “Serial Lover.” On these tracks, we see Kehlani having an epiphany that the toxic relationships and the ideologies that are associated with them do not align with her own morals and love language.
“Hate The Club,” featuring Masego, who incorporates his infamous saxophone skills and embeds them beautifully in the background. During “Hate The Club,” Kehlani finds herself at the club night after night just to run into her love. Kehlani has this moment of self-realization on this track that the club scene and the energy that it encompasses is just not for her and is not where she wants to be. She speaks on her desire to be anti-social and spend one on one time with her partner.
She sings, “Damn, you know I hate the club. But I came cause I knew you’d show up. Maybe if I drank enough, I’ll make my way over to ya.”
“Hate The Club” is the catapult that jumpstarts this lack of self-control that Kehlani was speaking on in the first half of the album; into a mission towards self-respect and self-worth. On the track “Serial Lover,” we see Kehlani attacking and exposing her tendencies towards prioritizing love over her own needs. “Serial Lover” also showcases Kehlani honoring the capacity that her love has to offer; although she may be surrounded by non-committal partners, she is now finding strength in her ability to love so fearlessly and unapologetically.
Tracks towards the end of the album like “Can You Blame Me” and “Grieving” expose the process of mourning and learning to stand in your power unflinchingly. The way Kehlani decides to end her album is quite interesting – she removes herself from the equation and allows for rapper, Lexii to speak her truth.
Lexii and Kehlani collaborated on her first beloved EP, “You Should Be Here,” which ultimately jump-started her career. Lexii brings a sense of both wisdom and defiant energy when it comes to the bars. “Lexii’s Outro” is the perfect ending to the album, as it brings this sense of resilience and self-respect to come full circle. She flows over simple guitar chords allowing for her voice to take center stage.
She raps, “Can’t nobody hold me back no more, huh. Yeah, look, and can’t nobody hold me back no more. I’ve been on the right track so far, don’t even be texting ‘em back no more. Problem with these egos now is everybody’s shootin free throws now. Matter fact, don’t let em see you down. Cause if they see you down, they gon try to get up. They gon know that you stuck, exactly what they want. So even if you f***** up, you gotta put on that front.”