Language has always been a reliable indicator of time, as slang and turns of phrase become defining features of a generation. In this way, Kiana Ledé’s debut album, KIKI, is as much a time capsule as it is a document of millennial love and a continuation of the bittersweet sentiments that made her breakout single “Ex” so welcome. The singer, who got her first glimpses of the spotlight as the winner of a Kidz Bop competition, makes songs that are conversational in a way that feels as casual and comfortable as brunch or a group chat. The opening track, “Cancelled.,” whose very title is an emblem of the present, is built around a refrain of “you know the vibes” while other familiar references to trolling, DMs, and being left on read sneak in throughout. Each one offers more credence to the depictions of a messy, situationship-informed reality.
Ledé carries the album on her own, her voice a gorgeous palette of softer hues, but she uses the collaborations to recreate romantic and platonic dynamics. On “Chocolate.,” Ari Lennox joins her in a sweet ode to lovers, like two women waxing poetic about newfound bliss; the 6LACK-assisted “Second Chances.” and the floating “Separation.,” which features Arin Ray, become interplays where accusations are met with rebuttals and longing is reciprocal. But by using extra voices sparingly, it feels like she’s singing into the void, like Tumblr entries or Twitter declarations you hope will find their intended recipient. Love, heartbreak, and the in-between may be tales as old as time, but in Ledé’s hands, they’re made to feel uniquely of the moment.