Kehlani’s ‘Blue Water Road’ of revelation and personal growth
In the middle of a healing and self-discovery process, the two-time GRAMMY Award-nominated singer and songwriter Kehlani releases her third studio album, Blue Water Road, which is already a critical success after scoring 83/100 on Metacritic currently.
After a series of collaborations during the first months of this year, Kehlani comes back to the music industry with an album characterised by its soothing and sometimes erotic tones and its confessional and affective motifs. During the course of the album, Kehlani explores her identity progressively and shows her most intimate and fragile self. In her previous albums, SweetSexySavage and It Was Good Until It Wasn’t Kehlani navigates through sensuality and the chaos triggered by a failed relationship respectively. However, Blue Water Road is about the purification of the soul and the willingness to make decisions and accept challenges. After all, both positive and negative experiences shape human identity and the way existence is understood and perceived.
The Oaklander artist starts her thirteen-track album with Love Story, where she manifests her desire to open her heart to someone, surrounded by a spiritual and purifying melodic atmosphere. In Any Given Sunday (featuring Blxst), Kehlani switches to a more erotic tone, expressing her cravings for the company of her lover. It is in this track where Kehlani starts experimenting in the album, creating a rhythmic contrast between the slow melodic parts and the moments of rap. Furthermore, this song proves the polarity and fluidity of her queer identity. When she sings ‘‘Call me daddy in front of all your bitches in the lobby’’ she makes her ‘masculine’ side explicit. After this celebration of sensuality, Kehlani goes back to serenity with Shooter, an interlude that acts as a smooth transition between the different parts that constitute the album as a whole.
The fourth track of the record, Wish I Never, is about a feeling of regret after being in a toxic relationship. Solitude is now conceived as a healing method to overcome emotional dependence and sorrow. In this way, Kehlani implicitly emphasises the relevant role mental health plays in the construction of our identities and our perceptions of the world. Our views, thoughts and relations will turn darker and painful if the person we are supposed to share our intimate life with does not provide us the stability we require as humans. The queer artist joins Justin Bieber in her fifth track, Up All Night, where love is conceived as an unexpected feeling that dominates human soul. It asks us to wonder what we are capable of doing when we start growing romantic feelings for someone. The allusions to romanticism, affection and vulnerability constitute one of Kehlani’s most characteristic features. Since she started writing R&B music, she challenged stereotypes and conventions and presented the most lyrical and personal side of the genre, which is believed to be all about sexuality and lush. Furthermore, the eroticism found in the lyrics and the soothing melodies create a harmonic contrast in the song.
After uniting their voices in Birthday in 2020, Kehlani collaborates with Syd in Get Me Started, a melodic confrontation between a queer couple that is going through a difficult phase. It is at this point of the album where Kehlani demonstrates her evolution and starts developing self-love, prioritising herself and leaving harmful relationships behind. Blue Water Road continues with Everything (interlude), which serves as a transition to the next part of the record. After the interlude, Kehlani keeps on telling her story with More Than I Should, a collaboration with Jessie Reyez. Here both artists discuss how they start feeling something they should not for the person they are cheating on their partners with. In this way, these two singers demonstrate how humans are motivated and therefore dominated by our internal desires.
In Altar, Kehlani remembers the people she lost and brings them back to life through her memories. In addition, she understands that life is ephemeral and starts overcoming the grief losing our beloved ones can generate within the deepest part of ourselves. Going back to the erotic and romantic tones, Melt praises naked bodies and how they merge or unify when a relationship is blissful and trustworthy. She continues using erotic motifs in Tangerine, where she utilises metaphors to convey a message of sexual desire. Furthermore, she expresses her desire to settle down. The penultimate track, Everything, is a journey of sensations in which Kehlani yearns for physicality. Getting to the end of the album, the record concludes with Wondering / Wandering, comparing life to a blue water road of decisions. Although we may think we know how to control our lives, fate is constantly putting obstacles in our way. The title itself shows the contradiction of life, which leaves us wandering or walking through its path but at the same time, wondering whether we are doing the right thing or not.
Kehlani’s Blue Water Road shows the fragility of humanity and how we are dominated by our fears, which restrict our impulses and inner desires. Moreover, it is a journey of reflection and re-birth, where Kehlani finds her true identity and is willing to keep on finding her true identity through the acceptance of life challenges. If you are looking for a moment of earthly disconnection and an immersion in the deepest part of your heart, Kehlani’s latest album is made for you.