When confined in a creative corner, Kiana creates diamonds. The Grudges album is truly a testament to raw talent. Picking up from where she left off with Selfless EP in 2018, this project strikes into a convivial “Bitter B*tch INTROlude” as presented.
It unloads an unfinished situation with an ex-lover that triggered her offensive side. Although it may seem she is still hung up on the ex, the track is a certifiable closure that sets the record straight about certain things. Like “I really tried to let it go and be bigger / You made a mess and it left me so bitter / You telling everybody lies on Twitter”.
Miss Ledé further clarifies her intent in writing the song: “don’t take it wrong / I can’t have you thinking I’m still in love.” Yes, she’s bitter and still hung up on the wrongs of the ex-partner.
This is her time to be petty and go below the belt. She succeeds in this, with help from breathy singing and lightly composed instrumentals. The pairing adjoins perfectly, making his intro a fitting opening to the album.
Track two titled “Irresponsible” also lead single for this album features reputable producers in the music scene. Kiana joins forces with Cardiak & WU10 – Cardiak who draws an impressive portfolio working with H.E.R, Drake, Kendrick Lamar etc; and WU10 who is Grammy-nominated.
The song narrates a one-sided love for a man who seems to not be ready to settle down. Her mellow register for this track coordinates with her deep thoughts-turned lyrics. She wastes no time admitting jumping blindly into her feelings, “I dove in blind, took a chance on us / Gave my trust (Trust), so in love”. Though she is heartbroken, she manages to call out the recklessness of his ex with perfectly balanced words and vocals.
In “Promise Me” Ledé changes gears to a toxic space, slightly so. Still talking to her ex, only this time pleading repeatedly that even if he finds someone else, “Promise me that you’ll always find me”. So of course, this is a natural back and-forth between a recently broken up couple that can’t fully let go.
And with just two minutes of asking, it’s almost an unintentional genius move. If you really think about it, these moments in real life happen infrequently. Hence the 2-minute filler goodness. I wanted more of this track, It ended too soon.
The album takes us to one of my personal favorites. Bryson Tiller synergizes with Kiana in this follow-up “Gone” track that exhibits the male vs female perspective of a convoluted fallout. And with Tiller offering vocals that don’t overpower the beat assortment, allowed Kiana to meet him in that vocal range.
Their back and forth between Bryson rapping-singing to her clean chanting. The song surprised me a lot, due to how it started, it switched up unexpectedly from the offbase beginning. I have no doubt “Gone” will be a streaming playlist favorite.
Kiana showcases her range on “Jealous”, “Grudges” and “Where You Go.” Duo collabs tend to become repetitive and too recycled, however, Kiana pushed her creativity on these tracks. Her pairing with Ella Mai on “Jealous” made sense sonically and style-wise. They both have similar vocal ranges that blended well.
In “Grudges” featuring Kiki & Friends, the production style almost mimics a ballad mixed with modern beats. I was a tad bit thrown off by the emotion on this one. She managed to take the “Grudges” theme to another level. And at this juncture of the album is when I realize Kiana isn’t on the aggressive delivery she was onto in the first half.
It becomes clearer on “Where You Go” featuring Khalid. Although the song is an unsurprising “Grudges” the album consists of various nuances that stick to the overall theme throughout.banger, you sense her letting go of the grudge she has held onto since track one. Now, she is finally getting closer to her closure.
She sings on the next track, “overcoming all my pain/close to saying I’m okay / A little more and more everyday”. Kiana wraps up the project with an opening to a new chapter. “Magic” is a little window that leaves the listener hanging, yearning for more. As I sit here on my last second, I fail to wrap my mind around it being the closing track.
As a whole, Grudges the album consists of various nuances that stick to the overall theme throughout. She took the listener on a voyage of emotions that led to closure. The project wasn’t rushed, or lazy in overrated instrumentals.
In fact, it is the rawness and the ability to “to call it, name it and work on it” – as she pointed out in her recent interviews that resonated with me while I was unpacking the album. Grudges is a must listen, a self-help artwork and therapy. Get into it.
Listen to Kiana Ledé’s Grudges album below and stream it everywhere else here.
Words by Ruby Adele