Seconds into Kaash Paige’s debut album Teenage Fever, the Dallas native introduces herself to listeners on “London” with a bold question to an unnamed love interest: “Did you miss me enough to drink? Or did you drink enough to miss me?” While the idea of being missed is enough for some, Kaash peels back the action with a very Instagram caption-esque question to investigate its motive. Is the encounter a failed attempt to escape the saddened thoughts rooted in a failed stab at love that just barely slipped away or a drunken moment due for an “I’m sorry about last night. I was drunk” text the following morning? The question is a mere defense mechanism to protect the heart, one that desperately seeks a pure and undeniable love.
As all teenagers do, Kaash seeks love and direction in a world that expects so much from children, who know so little about it. Teenage Fever is the various anecdotes that result from these endeavors. It’s the lightbulb moments that give her an additional droplet of wisdom to figure out love or know where to turn in life but said droplet is not always enough. Backed by a verse from 42 Dugg, she vents about the lack of support in her life on “Fake Love.” “Even my family don’t understand me,” she sings. “Even my homies still don’t got a plan B.” The line is quite honestly the battle cry of the young teens who simply want to be understood and guided in the right direction towards the goals they hold within or seek to discover.
Unaccustomed to the true pains and frustrations of love, Kaash experiences this first hand throughout the album. After detailing the beauty of an intimate bond that holds two lovers together on “Soul Ties,” she sees the pains of when a connection like this is only desired on one side of the relationship on “Friends.” She pushes the envelope towards her love interest to no avail as they show no desire to read the words that lie within it. “Look who I’m f*ckin’ again / We can be more than just friends,” she suggests on the somber track. “Friends, what after this? / I don’t even know what that is.” After several intimate encounters, Kaash’s naivety towards the complexities of love is uncovered and sting like the burn of a fresh wound. It’s here that she learns the hard way that repeated intimate encounters do not always equate to settling down in the realm of exclusivity.
Teenage Fever closes with a supportive message on “Karma” that defines exactly what the album’s title is. “You are now entering Teenage Fever / which is where all the teenagers go through a stage of life / Bein’ unnatural and not knowin’ what’s really goin’ on.” It arrives like a pilot’s in-flight announcement minutes before landing. Despite its placement at the end of the album, this announcement is what all of Teenage Fever looked to bring to listeners. Kaash sings for the adolescent seeking love and self-expression. She sings for the ones who stress life’s “Problems” and solutions to them, for those who “play games” and “never pursue” love as she confesses on “Break Up Song.” The album sings for the youth and their ignorance to the world, one they can’t be blamed for. Rather than reprimand them for this ignorance, Kaash delivers the understanding she wished for while young.
Kaash Paige’s debut album proves she’s a product of Drake’s R&B catalog that often found teenagers like herself teary-eyed after their high-school crush lived up to their title and smashed their heart into pieces. Aside from a title that comes from his More Life track, other references to The Boy’s work are found on “Jaded,” “Fake Love,” “Friends,” and “Problems,” which interpolates Drake’s Take Care cut “Good Ones Go (Interlude).” Say what you want about Drake’s R&B bona fides, its quality, and how it stands against the rest of his work, but one thing is for sure: its relatable content gave direction to young listeners like Kaash herself. While it helped some navigate the usually guide-less trail of adolescence and love, it helped the Dallas native find her voice to create her version of these often relatable songs.
Kaash Paige isn’t the best at what she does, not yet at least. However, her efforts are promising. Teenage Fever is her wide-eyed entrance to a world that thrives off self-expression, and in it, she brings her preconceived notions on life and all that comes with it. This isn’t a coming of age story for her youth is still apparent on Teenage Fever. However, the album proves that despite being misunderstood and even misguided at times, Kaash found her way and continues to do just that day in and day out.
Teenage Fever is out now via Def Jam. Get it here.