After a hiatus Kehlani comes back strong with While We Wait

Olivia Brightbill

By Olivia Brightbill

Kehlani makes a very successful and long-awaited return with mixtape While We Wait. This is Kehlani’s first lengthy release since her 2017 deluxe album SweetSexySavage and does not disappoint in delivering some impressive works. Standouts include: “Footsteps (feat Musiq Soulchild)”, “Morning Glory,” “Nights Like This (feat. Ty Dolla $ign),” and “Butterfly.”

“Footsteps” starts the mixtape off strong with its ethereal vibes and beautiful harmonies between Kehlani and Musiq Soulchild. What really sells this song is the vocal deliver from both artists. There is emotion in the way they sing that it feels like a vulnerable and honest conversation. Their voices mesh well and I could listen to a whole album of these two collaborating. Hands down, “Footsteps” is the best song with a featuring artist because Musiq Soulchild’s delivery of the lyrics makes it feel as he believes what he is saying, whereas, some of the other featuring artists come across as just participating in the song.

It feels like an injustice that “Morning Glory” was not made a title track. I can understand the appeal of “Nunya.” It is a good song and better than most title track songs, but it just cannot compare to “Morning Glory.” These two songs are kind of two sides of the same coin with their in-your-face and independent message. While “Nunya” perfectly encapsulates what is today’s current standard of an R&B song, “Morning Glory” is refreshingly reminiscent of popular R&B songs from around 2010. What “Morning Glory” does better than “Nunya” is escaping genercism through a more complex and interesting instrumental. Also, Kehlani’s rap verse in “Morning Glory” is far superior to Dom Kennedy’s in “Nunya.” I need way more of Kehlani rapping in her songs. Her tone is so unique and catches your ear. It really breaks up the song nicely without feeling forced.

The second title track, “Nights Like This,” is deserving of being the a title track. It is one of the songs with a darker soundscape that matches the lyrics well. This song is a proper example of when to boost the bass to get the right vibe. Ty Dolla $ign’s feature felt just okay and I would have preferred Kehlani to rap instead. He was not necessarily bad, it was just not anything special. Initially, I was surprised this song was allowed to be a title track because the lyrics very blatantly express Kehlani’s queer sexuality. But then I remembered this is Kehlani and she always does what she wants to do. Her openness in her lyrics is what makes her successful as an artist. She deserves praise for normalizing queerness, especially in a genre that has history of being less than welcoming.

The last song that really shines is “Butterfly.” It has a very distinctive sound from the other songs in the mixtape as being one of the more explorative B-sides. It is hollow and minimalist which allows listeners to focus on her voice. This song executes the power of silence and space in the instrumentals. The echoey effects on Kehlani’s voice add a more lost feeling and mesmerizing feel.

Songs like “Butterfly” that have instrumentals that deviate from the norm, are the saving grace of the album. If the album did not have these standouts it would have fallen prey to genercism that often kills the R&B genre.

While We Wait as a whole is exceptional. With the exception of the not-so-exciting featuring artists Dom Kennedy, Ty Dolla $ign, and 6LACK. What could have helped the features is having more than the obligatory second verse or bridge rap appearances. I need more interaction or the rap being sprinkled throughout the song to make it more interesting. This is not limited to Kehlani, but a gripe I have with songs pumped out these days.

While the mixtape shows the same colors as her 2015 album You Should Be Here, it feels more mature. Kehlani shows off a controlled ferocity in her bold and confident lyrics. She stands above the rest because of the genuinity in her songs. I can be emotionally invested in the mixtape because it does come off as Kehlani putting her all into her work.