Kiiara has had a strange music career. She blew up on Soundcloud with her single “Gold” in 2015, and dropped her first EP low kii savage in 2016 to a similar degree of success. Over the next few years, she collaborated with everyone from Linkin Park to Future. With how popular she was, it could be easy to forget that she hadn’t yet released a solo album. Finally, four years after her EP, her album lil kiiwi has arrived—but it wasn’t worth the wait.
One of the biggest problems with lil kiiwi is that the three most impressive songs on the album are “Gold,” “Feels,” and “Whippin,” two of which were included on low kii savage. These are still solid pop songs, but it has now been four years since the release of Kiiara’s EP. Artists often get a pass when they include songs from EPs on their first albums, but in most of these cases, the songs haven’t already made their rounds in the public consciousness. “Whippin” and “Gold” have that signature Kiiara echoey gibberish sound, while “Feels” drips with atmosphere. Meanwhile, the rest of the album sounds like generic, forgettable pop in contrast with these tracks.
While most of the new music is fairly forgettable, “Accidental” has some of the best lyricism on the album, a refreshing change of pace for Kiiara. The basis of the song is that she’s been manipulating a lover and now regrets it. She makes all sorts of excuses including drugs and her mental health, but she also acknowledges that these don’t change the fact that she did manipulate them. It’s a fairly mature take on toxic relationships for a generic pop song. Musically, however, “Accidental” just isn’t very impressive compared to what Kiiara has done before, and the fact that its lyrics are relatively strong doesn’t bode well for the rest of the album.
Features are often a good place to experiment a bit with sound by bringing in another artist, so it’s a little frustrating that the two new collaborations on this album feel so safe. “So Sick” featuring blackbear is generic pop until it randomly decides to turn into one of blackbear’s forgettable tracks during his verse. Meanwhile, PVRIS and DeathbyRomy don’t really bring much to the table, and PVRIS only makes Kiiara’s voice sound more overproduced in comparison. Both tracks feel forgettable, especially when Kiiara has done several more interesting collaborations in the past.
It’s interesting to note that Kiiara made the decision to leave out several singles that were released over the last few years, including “Bipolar,” “dopemang,” and “L*** is a Bad Word.” Their exclusion is a strange move considering the artist clearly isn’t opposed to bringing in older songs like “Gold” and “Whippin.” The most plausible explanation is that these songs didn’t perform as well as the other old songs she included. “Gold” has well over 500 million plays on Spotify, while “Dopemang” has only around 14 million plays. Numbers seem to be driving the artist’s decision making.
lil kiiwi is Kiiara’s first full-length release, but it still feels disappointing compared to what she’s done before. The album feels obsessed with her past releases, but only cherrypicks the most successful ones. Kiiara’s distinct echoey sound is only present on the old songs, while the new songs feel like hollow attempts to make catchy pop music. Despite only clocking in at 37 minutes, the album feels like a chore to get through. lil kiiwi might be excusable if it were the debut album of an amateur artist, but Kiiara now has too much experience for that excuse to hold up.
Featured image courtesy of Atlantic Records