“Are you going to use your box?”
Kehlani clearly doesn’t understand why her speech on mental health and self-care was met with titters from the crowd at her recent Dublin show. A survivor of suicide, she speaks openly of the importance of taking time for yourself within “your box” and leaving negativity and stressful issues in an opposing bubble.
Blame clunky phraseology, but it’s one of several unfortunate misfires from the R&B hatchling on the night of her ‘Sweet.Sexy.Savage’ Tour.
You’d think someone personally praised by Piers Morgan wouldn’t be worth their salt – Kehlani proves to be the exception. Her career has been hard-earned – initially a member of girl band Poplyfe, she became homeless following her departure from the group. Kehlani began uploading music to her SoundCloud, which was heard by America’s Got Talent host Nick Cannon, kick-starting her solo career in LA.
Two mixtapes later, things look good – until her public relationship NBA point guard Kyrie Irving. took a nasty turn amid cheating allegations. Torrents of social media abuse resulted in the singer attempting suicide at 20 years-old.
In January, Kehlani released her debut studio album ‘Sweet.Sexy.Savage’ – a statement of strength and confidence following her turbulent time.
At yet, in a live setting, she seems as lost as ever. Minimal staging (read as, none) cheapens the entire performance. It’s just her, a drummer and her DJ. The thinned-out crowd give the Academy an ‘open mic’ vibe instead of a bona-fide pop gig atmosphere worthy of the album.
The material is still solid though. Hold Me By The Heart is the album’s emotional anchor ballad – the added live percussion is wholly unnecessary. Where he does come in handy is on Piece Of Mind – his ad-libs a warm welcome to the sub-standard album track.
Undercover, which samples Akon’s Don’t Matter to surprisingly good effect, sees two dancers drafted in with significantly less impact. Kehlani’s sassy salsa boogies are appreciated – they’re fun, playful and give a glimpse of her personality.
But overall, it’s limp. At one point, she gets defensive when someone makes a ‘thumbs down’ gesture in response to a question about same-sex couples in attendance. She calls out the person and is immediately on the defensive, labelling her gigs ‘hate-free zones’. Later, it’s established that the person was gesturing against relationships as a whole, and the whole incident shows Kehlani up as being insecure.
Kehlani has worked hard and is reaping the rewards. But Kehlani on record and Kehlani live are two completely different artists. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is a live personality (or show). Her eagerness and enthusiasm for touring is obvious – but allowing an adequate time-frame for development should have been more so.