Featuring collaborations with Justin Bieber and Jessie Reyez, the artist's latest finds her setting the B.S. aside to do some serious soul-searching.
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"We got one hell of a story/You're a hell of an author," Kehlani's proclaims on "Little Story," the first track on Blue Water Road. "You swear I'd leave you at the altar/Workin' on bein' softer…" The lyrics immediately evoke a moment of growth and self-awareness, of reaching that point in your journey where you're not only comfortable being vulnerable but willing to acknowledge your mistakes, all in the name of becoming a better, more enlightened version of yourself.

That acceptance and openness permeate the singer's third studio album, which boasts the same sort of candor Kehlani has embraced throughout a short but impressive catalog. "I've been honest with every step of my career, even when it's my personal life," the two-time Grammy nominee — who identifies as a lesbian and uses the pronouns she and they — told EW in 2020 upon the release of their sophomore album, It Was Good Until It Wasn't. "People have gotten to rock with me and grow up with me." 

Fans who've been with the artist since their 2017 debut will be able to do that again; their latest is, in a way, a culmination of their previous work. SweetSexySavage was bold and loud, the sound of a teenager discovering themself. Its 2020 follow-up, It Was Good Until It Wasn't, turned its focus outward, wrestling with love, loss, and heartbreak. Blue Water Road is a natural next step, with Kehlani setting the B.S. aside to do some serious adult soul-searching.

But their definition of "rock" is loose. Most songs on the brisk 37-minute LP unfold like a breezy coastal drive — you can practically feel the beachy wind in your hair and hear the lulling tides lapping at the shore, waiting to pull you in. This is vibe music. But more upbeat cuts like "Any Given Sunday," featuring blxst, and the Justin Bieber duet "Up At Night" offer more of a jolt, capturing the first sparks of a summer romance, while "More Than I Should" (with Jessie Reyez) finds its narrator succumbing to their wandering eye: "At this point, I'm too tired of holdin' back/At this point, my fantasies got the best of me… Need to get your ass alone when nobody's home."

On Blue Water Road, Kehlani makes a pilgrimage to the next phase in their life, one in which they're more reflective of, and content with, who they are today: a mother, an artist, someone with flaws who knows there's nothing but an open, sometimes rocky road ahead. They sum it up best on "Wandering/Wondering," the record's closer: "I had to learn to trust and fall/Receive it all, surrender/The push and pull to break the wall/Rebuild it all, it found me." Grade: B

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