Music

Kehlani’s Lifelong Search For Serenity Is Complete On The Fulfilling ‘Blue Water Road’

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Kehlani’s sophomore album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, focused on absorbing the destruction that failures in love and life caused against her while disallowing it from throwing her off her journey. This theme of navigating through the presence of an unwanted being was fitting at the time as the world was forced under the glass dome of a global pandemic. For Kehlani, everything else was good until it wasn’t, and for the rest of us, by that same token, the once-normal world that we previously took for granted was good until it was deemed otherwise. With that, it leaves us with two options: wait for things to work themselves out or acknowledge the circumstances as a sign to make changes in your life. With her third album Blue Water Road, Kehlani opts for the latter.

Recreating happiness is what Kehlani strives for on Blue Water Road. In its best form, it’s as pure and euphoric as the ocean waters that sat across from the Malibu stretch of road that her third album is named after. Luckily for Kehlani, happiness is not uncharted territory for her. The singer’s 2015 debut album SweetSexySavage is probably the giddiest and most spirited we’ve heard her be so far. But it came with a heavy dose of naivety and overflowing charisma that, together, asked “what could go wrong?” Well, a lot did and that’s what brought us to It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. However, time heals and it did for Kehlani as it placed her on an upward trek that returned her to her better days. Kehlani succeeds at recreating happiness on Blue Water Road while her old naivety is replaced with the gratitude to be here again. It also comes with the understanding that she’s not only experienced the worst, but a permanent residency at the top of the world goes unguaranteed.

By the end of Blue Water Road, Kehlani’s lifelong search for serenity is complete, and it’s quite fulfilling. In an Apple Music interview, she revealed that her initial intention on Blue Water Road was to make music for a deluxe release of It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. What Kehlani didn’t know at first is that the growth she needed was already in progress, and thus the music that came out of those sessions was no longer connected to her sophomore album. We waste no time learning about these changes as Kehlani yearns to “throw a paper tantrum” at a strip club for a dancer she’s grown very fond of. Just two years ago, she forced herself to be in the middle of loud music and erratically flashing lights while noting, “Damn, you know I hate the club.” Where It Was Good Until It Wasn’t begins with a chilling anecdote about a “Toxic” love, Blue Water Road sets off with accountability and the recognition of her faults in love through “Little Story.”

Kehlani progress on this journey comes with its missteps and unsuccessful moments. It’d be wrong to assume that the ever-growing 27-year-old singer suddenly figured out how to perfectly and flawlessly approach life. She enters a new relationship only to leave with regrets on the Slick Rick-sampling “Wish I Never,” she’s gaslit on “Get Me Started” with Syd, and she attempts in a very Issa Rae way to justify her infidelity on “More Than I Should” with Jessie Reyez. It’s all honest and relatable and it’s what makes Kehlani’s music so indulgent. She never approaches it from a holier than thou perspective, and she never throws stones from her glasshouse. We understand Kehlani cause we’ve been there before and we all aim to fit life’s complicated puzzle pieces together to solve some problem that we have.

With that, Kehlani successfully achieves serenity through her ability to establish it within her. You can’t fall in love without knowing and accepting what you love, and you will never find peace without dealing with the chaos that lies within. A perfect example of that comes on “Altar,” where Kehlani grapples with grief and achieves the initially impossible feat of accepting that a loved one is no longer physically present. “Soon, I’ll see your face,” she sings with undeterred optimism. “Don’t know why I ever thought you were far away / I shoulda known better.”

So what does serenity look like for Kehlani? It could be finding a love so perfect and united that she confuses her hair, reflection, and her skin for her lover’s on “Melt.” It could also be enjoying the fruits of her labor towards a healthy love on the nearly-NSFW “Tangerine” where she sings, “So don’t tell nobody what’s done in the garden / The fruits you can harvest, they grow where you water.” However, it’s best captured on “Everything” as the arrival of a new lover who checks off her physical, verbal, and compatibility boxes leaves her to praise the heavens for this gift she’s waited so long for. As a result, her excitement for it can’t be bottled. “That was before me, it’s childish, you done with your wildin,’” she sings. “Now you can be wild with me, run that mile with me / Catch some flights out with me.”

Simply put: Kehlani won. She found new love and accepted her natural identity – both sexual and physical – all while managing to keep the thunderous clouds and unsettling fires that shook her world on It Was Good Until It Wasn’t out of her present-day life. Nowadays, things are better than good, they’re great, and it’s all thanks to Blue Water Road.

Blue Water Road is out now via TSNMI/Atlantic. You can stream it here.

Kehlani is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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