The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.
Three years have passed since Kehlani delivered her debut album, SweetSexySavage. Yet, before its arrival, she was already a celebrated artist thanks to her 2015 mixtape, You Should Be Here. The mixtape gave Kehlani her first Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary album while also landing on several year-end lists. You Should Be Here also presented an emphasis on emotional presence, a theme that Kehlani would incorporate into her future work and overall artistic style.
A nine-track EP, dubbed While We Wait, and a number of quality singles made the three-year gap between her first and second albums far less grueling than the wait periods experienced with her R&B contemporaries. Returning with her sophomore effort, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, the album arrives after a rollercoaster pair of years that found her highs and lows pulled apart by Twitter know-it-alls. It Was Good Until It Wasn’t finds Kehlani detailing her own heart when it comes to love. At the album’s conclusion, she proves that her tendencies in love and a willingness to give her all are anything but flaws in her eyes.
Confident in her abilities to not only support but uplift and protect her partner, Kehlani looks to change her potential lover’s secluded and tunnel-visioned approach to the world on the Jhene Aiko-featuring “Change Your Life.” Agreeing with Aiko that the song’s subject is far from “incomplete,” Kehlani pushes forth with her persuasion. “But now you seein’ that it’s more than body, face, and smile / You see me, and you look beyond it, you feel inspired,” she sings. “I’m here to excel with you / Here to break bread with you.” This narrative continues on “Bad News” as Kehlani expresses distrust in the world — one that constantly aims to break her down — and its ability to protect her lover from any dangers. “Take your time away from the bullsh*t,” she begs. “Just be on some cool sh*t with me.”
The phrase “it takes two to tango” comes alive on It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. Kehlani wears her heart on her sleeve in every relationship and despite unfavored results, she proudly keeps her sleeve rolled up where her heart remains unmoved. Convinced the world is unable to handle a love like hers, she labels herself a “Serial Lover” on the Boi-1da-produced track and considers a break from chasing the romantic experience she longs for. Break or not, with pure intentions and a “heart full of gold,” changing her approach to love is not up for consideration. In an attempt to convince her partner that the streets aren’t as informed as they pretend to be, Kehlani places her best foot forward on “Everybody Business.” Self-aware of her best and true qualities in love, she reminds listeners and her latest lover that she’s never been a “half-assed lover” or one to dish her heart and body out to any and everyone. Regardless of the ending, Kehlani rests assured knowing she was never at fault, singing, “Can’t make me feel bad for nothin’ / Don’t make me feel bad for lovin’.”
Throughout the album, Kehlani proves that being a fearless lover is a consistent quality she brings time and time again. Placing it all on the table in the beginning, when it comes time to leave Kehlani admits to struggling to pick up her belongings and exit without delay. On “F&MU” and “Can You Blame Me” with Lucky Daye, she confesses to picking fights to ensure her ex-lover does not depart from her life for good. Enthralled by the newfound bedroom passion that follows moments of anger and frustration, Kehlani and her ex-lover keep each other at arm’s length as they are far from ready to let go of this fiery experience, one that she details on “Toxic.” Why? Well, as she says on “Can You Blame Me,” “Rather call you out than no one call my phone / Hold my grudge instead of havin’ none to hold.”
Kehlani’s It Was Good Until It Wasn’t reminds me of the growing love-themed YouTube series My Crynicles, which features the stories of Sierra McKie, a young college student, and her failed romantic relationships. No amount of hurt between Kehlani and Sierra seems to deter them from giving their heart along with the shirt off their back. While the pain from broken hearts will sting for a considerable amount of time, there’s one thing they will never experience: guilt for their unapologetic love as more times than not they are the party that is wronged.
The naivety Kehlani held on You Should Be Here and SweetSexySavage vanished from existence on It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. She no longer pouts at failing attempts at love instead, she leaves herself with two options: stay or leave. However, this isn’t the overarching theme on her sophomore album. Rather, Kehlani presents her latest love stories while justifying her reasons for giving her all from the get-go, time and time again. The think pieces and comments from the know-it-alls become null and void once the realization arrives that Kehlani left it all in the bedroom, a quality that deserves to be, if anything, celebrated and heralded.
Kehlani is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.