PopCrush Presents: Kehlani

by | PopCrush
PopCrush Presents Kehlani
Atlantic Records

Every week at PopCrush, we’re putting the spotlight on one up-and-coming act you need to know about. Why? So you can get on board early before everyone else and their mother jumps on the bandwagon…and so you can be that one friend in the group who’s always like, “Um, actually, I prefer their earlier work.”

If you watched Season 6 of America’s Got Talent, you might remember PopLyfe, the teen pop band who finished in fourth place back in 2011. But you may not immediately recognize Kehlani as the former then-baby-faced lead singer of the group — in fact, you’d be forgiven if you’re immediate reaction is, “that’s the same person?!” The 20-year-old Bay Area native has undergone a swanlike transformation in the past four years, and she’s developed a distinctive, all-grown-up sound to match.

After parting ways with PopLyfe, Kehlani Parrish stepped away from their rock-influenced style. She declared her R&B-princess intentions with her debut mixtape, Cloud 19, and her 2014 “FWU” video proved that she could hold it down in a top-knot braid and bamboo earrings with the best of them. But in March of this year, when Kehlani dropped the game-changing “How That Taste,” it became clear that she isn’t content to simply play on our nostalgia for her ‘90s forebears like Brandy and Aaliyah. She wants to bring us something we haven’t heard before.

Held aloft by producer Jahaan Sweet’s uber-slick synths, “How That Taste” is an instant classic talk-to-the-hand jam, in the vein of Destiny’s Child’s “So Good.” Kehlani comes for her rivals immediately: “They didn’t want me then, they want me now /
Did not want me to win, but now they’re proud
/ Now they’re payin’ to get in, they in the crowd
Tell me how’s the view now?”  One doesn’t need to be a rising R&B star to revel in the sentiment, and by “revel” we mean “listen to the song while singing along at a deafening volume.”

You Should Be Here, the new follow-up to Cloud 19, is further evidence of Kehlani’s confidence and range. It boasts features from Chance the Rapper and BJ the Chicago Kid, and Billboard called it “the year’s first great R&B album.”

You can check out “How That Taste” and the video for You Should Be Here‘s title track above, and you can buy the album on iTunes now. Expect to hear lots more from Kehlani in the coming year — the singer was just signed to Atlantic.

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