a new, new york rom-com starring kehlani

One of my biggest fears is getting sick of the things I love. It’s a fear that follows me in relationships, when I watch movies, when I go shopping, and when I listen to new songs. I know I unequivocally love a song because when I do, I also get a little sad at the possibility of tiring of it.

On a chilly Sunday evening the scene in my apartment could be described as frothy New York romcom where the main character’s arc will inevitably take them to Europe to find themselves and love! There’s warm lighting, big oversized winter sweater, chicken thighs crackling under the oven light. Are we watching the same rom-coms? While some French cafe music would fit the scene perfectly, this fantasy is instantly shattered when I realize I’ve instead been playing R&B’s sleeper agent Kehlani’s new mixtape While We Wait on a near constant loop.

As a devotee to the Bay area songstress, I was surprised that the expectation of While We Wait didn’t occupy and consume my entire brain last week. It’s been a couple of years since she dropped her first album, SweetSexySavage and a lot has changed in myself, the world, and Kehlani. She had been so vocal about not identifying with those songs anymore, I was nervous I wasn’t growing in the same direction as one of my favorite artists and that I’d be left not connecting with the new music.

Then While We Wait was released and all my worries floated away but the fears that I would overplay the tape to the point of exhaustion came in their place. A good sign!

There’s an unwavering authenticity to Kehlani’s music that I don’t get from other pop artists that have been creating more vulnerable music lately. When she sings, it’s like she’s learning the hard truths about life and people in real time; resisting the toxicity of the world though her heart may be wanting to pull her in that direction, to poke the bear just a little. She writes most of the songs entirely on her own so when I listen, I feel like I’m also being taught.

It’s the same feeling when a friend gives you guidance you already know. When it comes from them, it just sounds…different. Smarter?

I’m very independent. I love that about myself but it makes finding a significant other a lot more difficult. I revel in romantic companionship but have a crippling fear of codependency. The belly of it being that when or if it’s taken away, I’ll be left with an overwhelming amount of negative space to fill as though an entire city will need rebuilding.

Through and through the mixtape is a mature analysis of modern relationships or my most currently hated phrase, “situationships.” There’s an understanding of why the explorations of the latter failed but an appreciation for the attempts to build something with someone even when the foundation was weak. At the same time, it celebrates autonomy of oneself while recognizing the parts of us that find joy in caring for and being cared for by others.

By the end of the first listen I knew that Kehlani had indeed grown in a new direction but I did too.

Loosey Thoughts

  • I think she’s R&B’s sleeper agent because she goes dark for quite a while to not just working on music but also live her life. When she releases new material it honestly feels like she physically fine tuned both lyrics and production to a perfect cohesiveness like they’re parts of a car so when she resurfaces you’re wondering how everyone is not talking about her all the time.

  • Haven’t found confirmation but I think Snoh Alegra’s, “Time”, in addition to being sampled on Drake’s, “Do Not Disturb,” is also sampled on Kehlani’s, “Feels".”

  • I think it’s really impressive that she’s still relatively young but writes with the insight of an ancient shaman.