Pain/Pleasure by Kah-Lo album review by Sam Franzini for Northern Transmissions




Across Nigerian-born dance artist Kah-Lo’s debut album, one thing’s clear: she knows how to write a hook. Pushed into the spotlight from her viral song “Fake ID” with Riton, she’s been building a base that expanded with 2021’s debut EP The Arrival. Pain/Pleasure, her first full length which arrived last Friday, shows she’s more than capable of holding her own.

Kah-Lo’s niche is sensual, confident anthems that will inspire without feeling too gaudy — a more nuanced Lizzo, perhaps. “She has… it!” she gawks at an alluring woman with a certain star factor on “It Girl.” Inspiration or affirmation, who knows? The next song, “fund$,” doesn’t let up on the hyper club energy — on the album’s most driving beat, some of its most clever lyrics are found. “If it don’t make money then it don’t make sense / Bitch, I’m just tryna pay my rent,” she says on the anthemic track. “I’m impatient, I need my funds”: how could you blame her?

Elsewhere on the album are hidden gems that will stick out on repeated listens. She flees to the dancefloor for escapism on “Stay Sane,” beckons to a lover on “The Way I Want U” and “Runaway,” two tracks where she also pays homage to her culture through Afrobeat production, and cuts through the bullshit on the confessional “Play.” “If you like me, and I like you / Why waste time, what you want to do?” The jangly title track explores the duality of her two main focuses: “I’d love nothing more than to watch you drown,” she taunts, “Your pain is my pleasure.”

The writing is sometimes repeated, but then again, on a dance album, is anyone really paying meticulous attention? There are some TikTok-ready quips on “GD Woman,” particularly “Pretty pussy energy, you have to just stan,” and “Dare me all you want, I’m still a big mood,” but it’s worth the cool confidence she exudes here. (On “Karma,” there’s also the baffling lyric: “Toxic feminine energy,” which feels like a randomly generated selection of 2023 buzzwords, but again, the song’s good enough to tune it out.)

Just try and walk down the street listening to “It Girl,” “fund$,” “Play,” “GD Woman,” and another handful of album cuts without instantly feeling better. Kah-Lo makes hits for the soul, something energizing to start your day or end it in a dense club — you can just play the whole thing, there’s hardly a miss in the list. On her chic debut album, Kah-Lo flaunts 14 runway-ready tracks dripping in confidence and ease.

order Pain/Pleasure by Kah-lo HERE


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