Kehlani has been one of my personal favourite artists in 2015, so I let out a squeal for joy when I saw she released a new single “Tore Up”. In both Cloud 19 and You Should Be Here she pairs her swag and self-confidence with an acknowledgment of her past mistakes and pride in her personal growth. I love when R&B doesn’t shy away from the painful, messy and real and this new track does exactly that. “Tore Up” is about the pains of heartache, residual feelings, and the use of drugs to cope; she shows a fresh vulnerability and brings the listener along to an emotionally dark and dangerous place.
While her vocals are as powerful as ever, what most impresses me about this song is how well Jahaan Sweet’s production reflects the spirit of the lyrics. The song leads the listener through the experience of the narrative. The beautifully simple piano line frames the entire song, but otherwise hauntingly fades in and out. It drowns amidst the synths and bass which begin to warp and distort as Kehlani sings “but I still pop one to feel a little better”. The beat crescendos to fill your ears full while a heartbeat rhythm slowly begins to appear with greater frequency until it temporarily takes control as the dominating focal point. Later different chords overpower the spoken dialogue in the background. Jahaan Sweet’s soundscape purposefully manipulates your perception while Kehlani’s honest and vulnerable lyrics evokes your empathy.