Cynicism is a growing phenomenon in music. True love songs are hard to come by these days. Deriving its name from Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Yellow Diamonds is a series of lyric breakdowns in which VIBE Senior Music Editor Austin Williams celebrates songs that sound like love found in a hopeless mainstream.
In my Yellow Diamonds breakdown of “little story,” the intro to Kehlani’s recently released blue water road, I wrote about the big ambition of the singer’s ode to closure. Throughout the song, the artist, who confirmed during the making of their third studio album that they answer to she/they pronouns, calls for a romantic epilogue with a past partner. In “everything,” the penultimate track on the LP, it seems as though that call was received warmly, as the song feels like a continuation of the narrative outlined in “little story.”
“Everything” is a love song uniquely fit for the times. Of course, there’s the fact that its refrain—“it’s the everything for me”—is derived from a phrase popularized on social media by Black folks in the LGBTQ+ community. But there’s also something especially modern, or at least youthful, about the way Kehlani expresses their love throughout the record. From their awareness of their partner’s past flings to the song’s allusions to an on-again, off-again relationship, “everything” contains what I’ve referred to in the past as “situationship songwriting.” This style of lyricism is rarely successful in other records. But in this instance, its strength, like that of “little story,” lies in its ability to approach love with boundless optimism.
What makes “everything” feel like a sequel to “little story” is the former sounds like the happily-ever-after that Kehlani yearns for in the latter, with both songs finding beauty in a non-linear romance. Moreover, both tracks are string-centric ballads that each appear on opposite ends of blue water road’s tracklist, and Kehlani is seen watching the music video for one single in the visual for the other. Eight years removed from their debut Cloud 19 mixtape, the singer has been far too intentional throughout their career for me to believe these connections are coincidental.
I could blame it on the physical
I could blame it on your lips, your touch, your kiss
You know, real traditional
But your love’s too original
You are anything but conventional
Baby, did you know that
From the moment we fell in, I knew we could fall back
Knew I’d always crawl back, ooh
The ties between “everything” and “little story” begin in the former’s earliest lyrics. The first verse opens with Kehlani noting the nuance that allows their partner’s love to feel both traditional and unconventional, and it ends with an acknowledgment of the ebbs and flows a love like that can create. “From the moment we fell in, I knew we could fall back/ Knew I’d always crawl back” is the line that convinced me “everything” is a continuation of “little story,” as “crawling back” indicates a successful attempt at closure.
Beyond its connection to “little story,” what also struck me about this line is “I knew we could fall back.” Essentially, what this bar suggests is that Kehlani and their partner at one point built a bond so strong it afforded them the security of being able to walk away from it without fearing it’d crumble. If “little story” details the big ambition of seeking closure, “everything” is rooted in the swaggering confidence one feels when that ambition is realized.
Love the way you tеach me
Love the way you listеn
You know all my details
You so damn attentive
You got my attention, babe
Can’t forget to mention, babe
I’ma keep you lifted
You so fu**in’ gifted
And how many girls out in the world can say that they had it?
And how many bi**hes that became your missus can maintain the status?
That was before me, it’s childish, you done with your wildin’
Now you can be wild with me, run that mile with me
Catch some flights out with me, oh
I match your energy, match your fly perfectly
Lips lock intensively, want you extensively
I know you was made for me, think you was made with me
Sh*t feel like destiny
The second verse of “everything” finds Kehlani detailing the qualities of a person most likely to meet a lover halfway to closure in the first place: Someone sage enough to impart wisdom but curious enough to learn what they don’t already know. In exchange for these gifts, the singer promises to keep their partner “lifted” in love.
The latter portion of this verse is the part of the song that feels the most reflective of what it’s like to date these days. With modern situationships, even ones filled with long histories of love, people are made acutely aware of their competition. It doesn’t take actually seeing your partner interact with any of their exes to learn everything about them through the grapevine of social media. Part of having a love strong enough to allow you to “fall back” means often doing so with some sense of who your partner is seeing in your absence.
As Kehlani sings, “And how many girls out in the world can say that they had it?/ And how many bi**hes that became your missus can maintain the status,” they’re likely asking questions they already have answers to.
‘Cause, baby, it’s the everything for me
For me, oh, for me
This is such a different thing for me
For me, yeah, oh, for me
Baby, it’s the everything, no tryin’
You be shinin’, my silver linin’
‘Cause, baby, it’s the everything for me
For me, oh, for me
The most memorable, moving, and swoon-worthy part of “everything” is its heartfelt chorus. Incorporating social media idioms in one’s songwriting is a risky proposition, as it usually does more to date the record than connect with the listener. But Kehlani is so precise with their pen that they’re able to tease out the most evergreen emotions in what it means for someone’s best traits to be “the everything” for them.
That skilled penmanship is the reason three of their songs have already been featured in this column—the aforementioned “little story,” along with “up at night” and “Out Loud,” their respective collaborations with Justin Bieber and Syd. As Kehlani’s fourth Yellow Diamonds love song finds them ending the story they started in their first, their blue water road era feels as defined by its romantic optimism as this column is itself.