Self-aware of her shyness, Oakland-born artist Kehlani Parrish has always approached her craft with integrity and vulnerability. On her debut album, 2017’s SweetSexySavage, she explored facets of herself and her identity through the context of love.
With the album’s follow-up, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, Parrish swims even further into the depths of herself. The album is a vulnerable, more specific and unfiltered glimpse into a singular toxic experience Parrish went through.
Decidedly less polished than its predecessor, the album is slight, clocking in under 40 minutes. It Was Good largely feels more like a mixtape or rough draft than a fully furnished studio album.
Flaws and all, the record’s strength lays on its focus on the chips in the paint.
Rather than apply the gloss and roll out the glamorous singles, Parrish simply presents herself through these 15 tracks. She righteously lets the music speak for itself.
The conversational approach to the album feels like a vulnerable heart to heart.
On It Was Good, Kehlani is a friend pouring her heart out directly to the listener. She grabs a magnifying glass and examines duality of love from all angles, both from the driver’s seat and at the expense of her autonomy.
This is exemplified in tracks like “Bad News,” “Everybody Business” and “Grieving.” Parrish doesn’t shy away from vulnerable topics, delving into issues like a lover engaging in dangerous, life threatening behavior (“Bad News”), reminiscing of the love life she has been scrutinized for throughout her career (“Everybody Business”), and lamenting the closed door of an unhealthy affair (“Grieving”).
Due to COVID-19, the album’s DIY aesthetic was less a creative choice than a necessity.
The public constraints inspired Kehlani to take the project into her own hands. She herself echoes this sentiment.
“[I] went and bought a computer, bought a camera, bought the programs, sat with my photographer and directed, produced, edited and shot [the album’s music videos],” Kehlani tells R&B Now, the newly launched web interview series from Apple Music.
From the collaborators to the care Kehlani pours into every word, It Was Good Until it Wasn’t is a labor of love. She teams up with some of the best R&B artists currently active. On “Change Your Life,” she joins Jhené Aiko in a confident letter to a lover that they can show them a life they never could find possible. Aiko rides the so With “Grieving,” James Blake offers is signature sorrow to add richness to the already enthralling tune.
It Was Good Until It Wasn’t works as an album because of the climate it exists in. Parrish and her team of producers constructed a world for the listener to cut through the excess and get straight to the core: Kehlani’s voice and her lyricism. Where It Was Good Until It Wasn’t lacks a feeling of completion or closure, so too does the artist behind it.