Kehlani Is Living Well on the Careening 'Crash'

BY Ian GormelyPublished Jun 25, 2024


These days, our main pop girls work in feedback loops. They live in, respond to and build on the lore that surrounds them — no questions, please! Meanwhile, Kehlani Parrish is out here L-I-V-I-N life and writing banger after banger about their experiences in vivid — and often explicit — detail.

Never has that been more true than on their fourth solo album, Crash. The Oakland, CA singer's most sonically eclectic collection to date, the record bounces from club tracks to acoustic ballads and her personal brand of R&B that's been the backbone of their career. The record is the product of more than a dozen credited producers and songwriters, many who have worked with Kehlani before. They sample Nina Sky, interpolate Christina Aguilera, and duet with Jill Scott, but none of these songs could ever be mistaken for anyone but Kehlani.

Opening thesis "Groove Theory" lays the groundwork. After a cacophonous start, they sing "I'm not the one / And I'm kind of crazy," over a retro backing track before someone spins the radio dial and a more sensual, modern groove emerges from the static. "That body," they coo. "My favourite playlist."

Built from a sample of "Move Ya Body" (itself based on the "Coolie Dance" riddim), "After Hours" is an easy highlight, while "Better Not" frames a warning about stepping out as an acoustic ballad that would otherwise not be out of place at an American Idol audition. "8" is a not-so-subtle ode to oral sex (ten minus two with you) while Scott and Puerto Rican artist Young Miko help deliver an overall treatise on female sexuality.

Sex, of course, pops up regularly in Kehlani's songs. Sometimes it's the main event, sometimes something off to the side, but Crash continues to offer up new and inventive ways of dressing up getting down: "She said she a freak / I ain't believe it / Now my hands are tied;" "Girl, you should taste the water from your well;" and "Dive in love, baby, you waking my Poseidon up," are just a handful of the highlights. Yet as fun as those lines are, they also serve as messages of female empowerment: a women has as much right to pleasure as a man does, and that includes "throwin' ass on a few strangers."

Grand statements have never really been Kehlani's bag. While you can attach major personal milestones to their most recent records (tumult in their personal life on It Was Good Until It Wasn't; sobriety and identity on Blue Water Road) their albums are best summed up by a bottom-up accumulation of moments rather than top-down narratives. By that measure, Crash is more about living in the moment. But the tie that binds remains Kehlani's willingness to throw themselves headfirst into love in all its forms. 

Crash sounds like its title: a variety of sounds and modes colliding into one another. Yet thematically, it all hangs together like clothes on a clothesline, dirty laundry getting aired out in the warm sun. This is "Live, Laugh, Love" Kehlani style. 


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