Kehlani

You Should Be Here

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When Kehlani was fronting the Oakland band Poplyfe during the sixth season of America's Got Talent, judge Piers Morgan informed the young singer, "I don't think you need the group." Four years later, Kehlani had two independent solo releases to her credit: the eight-track Cloud19 (2014) and this album-length affair. A week after the latter was made available, major-label Atlantic announced its signing of Kehlani, one of the more promising artists of the mid-2010s. While the singer and songwriter has fashioned herself into a contemporary R&B artist comparable to the likes of Jhené Aiko and Tinashe, she has retained the charming, down-to-earth qualities she displayed with her band. She's clearly making her own way, unafraid to knock suitors down a couple pegs ("How That Taste"), allowing her vulnerability to shine through ("You Should Be Here"), and affirming her individuality; in the "take me as I am" highlight "Unconditional," she offers "And I'd rather lace my sneakers up, 'cause high heels ain't my thing." The Chance the Rapper appearance is bound to get more attention than any of the other collaborations, but "Down for You," a duet with BJ the Chicago Kid, is deeper and more representative of Kehlani's refreshing approach to contemporary R&B for young adults.

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