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Inconsistency, inconsideration, and indecisiveness. Kiana Ledé names those as her “biggest pet peeves” during an interview with Uproxx ahead of her second album Grudges. Throughout the album’s 17 songs, Ledé journeys through past relationships that left her to deal with those bad qualities. However, it doesn’t stop there. Ledé also lists the grudges she has against men overall and herself as well. “I’m naming my grudges and calling them out so that I can move forward with my life,” she says.
Grudges is Ledé’s first album since her 2020 debut Kiki. That project presented a young adult who sought a fairy tale love story and believed that it could exist for her. Even the album’s low moments amounted to nothing but a brief bump in the road as it concludes with “Separation” and “No Takebacks,” which proved that Lede’s hopes and dreams were reasonable and not the result of youthful naivety. Three years later, things are much different for her. The novelty behind romance has lost its shine a bit and the frustration that she can’t have this thing that so many other people can indulge in is more present than ever.
“As a mature young woman, if I seem to be in a relationship with someone, I’m agreeing to meet in the middle, not compromise, but meet in the middle,” Ledé says. “So when you’re not helping me help us or help you, I can’t have that and I don’t like things that are out of my control. So yes, it frustrates me when I don’t know what someone’s thinking.”
These frustrations make for the foundation of “Irresponsible” and “Gemini Slander” on the album. The former blends anger and disappointment for a message penned directly to an unnamed lover who failed to live up to the adult task of being transparent, mature, and honest in love. “Gemini Slander” places Ledé in the driver’s seat as she walks away from a man who lacks the consistency and decisiveness required for love. Through a listen of Grudges, it’s clear that Ledé’s pains in love weren’t a brief or occasional occurrence. She has enough stories to tell because she’s been through it.
“I went through a breakup actually, during COVID I went through two breakups, so I don’t know if I got the world record for modern relationships you can have in quarantine,” Ledé recalls with a laugh. “Was in both of them, and clearly they did not go so great, but it’s okay. It left me with great music.” Though it wasn’t immediately that Ledé knew these songs would become what we now know as Grudges.
“Maybe [after] a year, a year and a half of making the album we were just like, these are grudges,” she says. “It wasn’t just about me having a grudge about my [exes], it really just created this perfect headline of the grudges I hold against the world and everything that it encompasses.”
Kiana Ledé’s growth from her early days helped her reach this point of vulnerable and sheer honesty about herself and others. Even throughout Grudges, there isn’t a point where she is spiteful toward those who contributed to qualms in love. It comes from a level of accountability that exists in these situations, especially ones that the singer herself had a hand in creating.
“I think as I’ve gotten older, no matter how big my role was, in those relationships, and this way, I can acknowledge and accept the part that I played,” she notes. “Too Far” is a perfect example of this as she acknowledges the effects of crossing the friendship barrier to explore the once-forbidden fruit of intimacy.
Though spite and retaliation were absent, a loss of faith in love, people, and trust took its place for some time as she details on the album’s title track. “I went through so much and was put through so much pain by the people that I thought loved me the most,” she remembers. “When that sort of betrayal happens, it’s really hard to think – like if these people were supposed to love me, how will this person that I met on Tuesday that I think is a good person and could be a good friend, how are they not gonna screw me over?” In naming and eventually freeing her grudges, Kiana also found it necessary to do the same to overcome doubts.
“I realized that you can build a good community by just trying,” she says. “I had to accept that with love of any kind, is going to come pain, and we can’t escape loss. That’s just a part of life.” Here, Ledé speaks of having hope, hope that tomorrow will be better, hope that you’ll receive what you prayed would be eventually, and hope that it’ll all be okay. “My friends and my mom are like you just are hopeful,” she says. “I just hope that people are who they say they are. There’s gonna be that one in a million that really is, so there is some hope and love somewhere.”
Despite all that she goes through on Grudges, this hope comes alive to conclude the album with “Magic.” It plays a role similar to that of “No Takebacks” on Kiki, a record that pours out the hopes for a forever romance, and while “Magic” looks to do the same for Grudges, it does so with a new sense of reality.
I label Ledé as a bit of a hopeless romantic, a title she fully accepts and credits for her ability to hold a grudge so well. However, when Grudges comes to a close, we’re left with the feeling that Ledé wants to be more of a hopeful romantic – optimistic about love’s potential while being a bit more practical about its arrival. Look no further than “Where You Go” with Khalid for evidence of this transition Ledé wants to make in the future. Though that record is certainly romantic on the surface, underneath that is the reminder of an unhealthy codependence that Ledé used to have in a previous relationship.
“I do hold a grudge against my younger self that was codependent with people that I was in a relationship with,” she admits. “It feels so good to be able to rely on someone right? But once it gets a little too codependent, like ‘I go where you go,’ it can be a lot.” Simply put, recognizing your faults is the first step in eventually correcting them.
At the end of the day, Grudges is Ledé’s moment of self-reflection and self-work and the pressures of getting it all done to overcome the past and reach what is destined for you. We see this through the intricate and well-thought-out artwork for Grudges. “The mirrors are a representation of a self-reflection, looking at yourself, and also who you are presently in that moment,” Ledé says. “The cameras are a representation of there being a lot of pressure while you’re looking at yourself, everyone else is looking at you, while you’re just trying to figure it out.” Overall, it’s a “clusterf*ck of sh*t around you” that hones in on the overwhelming feeling of working on yourself as the world watches and expects you to show up and simultaneously meet their own expectations.
In these moments, as Kiana Ledé has proven, the best thing you can do with flaws (and grudges) is to name them, acknowledge them, and set them free. But whatever you do, try your best to not hold on to them.
Grudges is out now via The Heavy Group/Republic Records. Find out more information here.