I’m exactly one year and one day older than Kaash Paige. This seems important somehow. Maybe it’s because when you’re young, musicians and artists are the ones in the real world, much older than you, with life experiences you try your best to relate to. No one tells you this next part will happen, but then, as you transition from your teens into your twenties, instead of being windows into experiences you’ve never lived, some artists become mirrors that look back at the journey you’ve taken.
Kaash, on her debut album “Teenage Fever,” is caught up in the whirlwind of this maturation herself, in the slow loss of innocence. She copes with the loneliness she feels by establishing a character for herself, one that is somehow both detached and over-involved. She enjoys keeping those around her at a distance, the best example being the phenomenal “Break-Up Song” with K CAMP. Whereas most breakup songs are filled with longing and regret, Kaash has seemingly made this one for the benefit of the other person, essentially telling them that they should get over it quickly since she had little to no investment in the relationship in the first place. She takes pride in pushing them away: “Used to hurting you and that’s just what I do.”
Cars hold a special place in Kaash’s music, similar to Frank Ocean. They provide intimacy, a stage for true vulnerability. Extending this motif from her 2019 EP, “Parked Car Convos,” much of “Teenage Fever” is centered around the experience of driving to meet someone, and the changes in atmosphere and perception of reality that take place when that person hops inside. Benzes, Bentleys and Lamborghinis all get mentions, the details all getting washed out together in a haze of luxury and escape.
The atmosphere of “Teenage Fever” is one of its best attributes. The hazy, reverb-heavy production stays consistent throughout, mirroring the nostalgic skyline depicted on the album’s artwork and painting a cinematic portrait of Dallas. Kaash’s ear for melody is phenomenal already at only 19, shown perfectly on the opener “London,” where Kaash switches up her cadence at will. Her ability to effortlessly deliver great hook after great hook helps keep the tracks from becoming too similar. “Mrs. Lonely” is the perfect melding of Kaash’s vocal ability and the psychedelic R&B production, with tinged guitars and warm pianos wrapping around each other beautifully. It’s at this point, near the end of the album, that Kaash’s hard exterior softens a bit, allowing herself to feel her loneliness uninhibited, questioning the motives of her closest friends while having one of her first encounters with the question that, first arriving in your teens, never seems to stay away for long: “Am I running out of time?”
Kaash has plenty of room to develop, though, most notably in her lyricism. She often comes close to being generic, even using the realize/real eyes wordplay that has become the Internet poster child for being fake-deep. In the future, Kash needs to improve as a storyteller and a songwriter, to put more names and faces to the feelings of simultaneous longing and detachment she centers her music around. She comes close to some interesting territory through her themes of materialism and isolation, but doesn’t explore these feelings enough to leave a big impact, a simple line that shows her potential being, “Friends without the Benz/ I don’t even know what that is.”
The album isn’t perfect. Neither is anything about the process that Kaash is going through. As Kaash moves into her twenties, the fever that adolescence brings may subside just a bit, and when that does happen and the smoke clears, I’m very interested to hear what her next story will sound like.