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Kiana Ledé: House of Grudges, You Left Me Bitter but You'll Never Find Better

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

They say time heals all wounds, but what about the wounds that linger long after the clock has ticked away? Grudges, those lingering bits of bitterness that we hold onto, have a funny way of keeping us tethered to the past. Sitting in this empty home, alone with my thoughts, I can't help but reflect on the grudges that have taken root in my heart.

You, you made a mess of our once sacred home. You arrived with promises of forever, only to snatch it all away. With each broken vow, each shattered dream, the bitterness grew within me. The walls that once witnessed our laughter and tender moments now stand as silent witnesses to the pain you caused. Every corner, every room, holds memories of a love lost.

"You made a mess and it left me so bitter." The words echo through my mind, reminding me of a time when love seemed like a beautiful possibility. I opened my heart, my home, to someone who I thought would cherish and protect it. Little did I know, they had other plans in mind. Like a thief in the night, they took every precious jewel I owned.

Photographed by Brandon Laurent, Art Direction by Brandon Laurent + Vincent Smith Creative Direction by Sidney Milford, Wardrobe Styled by Vincent Smith, Fashion Interns Calvin R.L. Carmichael + Nubian Princess, MUA Dee Carrion, Hair styled by Mariama Dashiell

Words + Interview by Je Todd

"It's so good until, it's gone." How true those words ring in my ears. I shared a home with someone I believed I would grow old with, someone I thought would be my partner in life. But instead of growing together, we grew apart. We drifted away from each other until there was nothing left. And now I'm left to pick up the pieces, to mend the wounds that time alone cannot heal. Grudges may hold us back, but they also serve as a reminder of what we deserve. Despite the bitterness that they leave in their wake, grudges can be a source of strength. They teach us to be resilient, to never settle for less than we deserve. So as I sit here in this, empty home, I embrace the bitterness that lingers within me. For it is a reminder that I deserve better, that I will never settle for anything less than the love and respect that I am worthy of.

You left me bitter, but you'll never find better. I refuse to let the pain consume me. Instead, I will use it as fuel to ignite the fire within me. I will move forward, leaving behind the ghosts of the past. I will find love again, a love that is worthy of the home I have built. And when that day comes, this house will no longer hold the remnants of a love lost, but rather the foundation of a love that is built to last. I am stronger than you, and I refuse to be defined by the hurt you have caused. This house will no longer be a shrine to the past, but a testament to my resilience. Love may be complicated, but it is also beautiful. And I am determined to find that beauty once again.

So, to those who left us bitter, those who took more than they gave, know this - you will never find anyone better than us. We have emerged from the ashes, stronger and more resilient than ever before. We have reclaimed our power and found our worth. We may have been hurt, but we will never be broken.

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Kiana Ledé, the rising R&B star, has once again taken the music world by storm with her sophomore album, Grudges. This incredible body of work showcases Ledé's growth and evolution as an artist, both lyrically and sonically. With every song, she effortlessly takes us on a journey through her pain and heartbreak, leaving us captivated and moved.

The raw emotion and powerful vocals shine through in each track, as she lays bare her deepest vulnerabilities and shares her experiences with heartache. It's as if she's reaching into the depths of her soul, pulling out every ounce of pain and anguish she's ever felt, and putting it on display for the world to see. It's gritty, it's powerful, and it's real.

She fearlessly delves into the rollercoaster of emotions that come with broken relationships and heartbreak, capturing the exact words and feelings that many people struggle to express. From the soaring highs to the devastating lows, Kiana takes us on an introspective journey that reminds us that healing takes time. The album's title, Grudges, encapsulates the theme perfectly. Ledé acknowledges that while she may be over a person, she can't forget the pain and damage they caused. Through her music, she confronts these grudges head-on, allowing herself to grow and move forward. It's a cathartic experience for both the artist and the listener.

Sonically, Grudges is a masterful blend of peacefulness and darkness. Ledé's velvety smooth vocals paired with haunting melodies create an ethereal atmosphere that soothes the soul. The production is flawless, with each instrument and element perfectly complementing her vocals and lyrics. It's a soundscape that envelops you and takes you on a truly therapeutic journey.

Ledé's talent and sheer artistry shine through in Grudges, solidifying her as a powerhouse in the R&B genre. With her sophomore album, she proves that she is here to stay and that her star will only continue to rise. Her ability to connect with listeners on a deep, emotional level is a testament to her incredible talent and the impact she has on her audience. Grudges, is a testament to Kiana Ledé's immense talent and solidifies her position as a force to be reckoned with in the R&B industry.

I'm in awe of the vulnerability and strength that this album embodies. The courage to share your personal experiences is truly inspiring. Now that it's out, I can only imagine the range of emotions you must be feeling. How are you feeling?

I feel like the reception has been so good. It's been really loving and caring. People seem to really enjoy listening to it. A lot of people have told me that it's exactly what they needed to hear at this moment. The fact that it's perfect timing for somebody makes me happy.

I'm constantly finding new favorites and right now, 'Damage' is the one that gets me every time. It has that nostalgic 90s Brandy R&B vibe, which I absolutely love! I'm curious, How did this incredible song come to be?

I was sent that song from my A&R and I don't take a lot of songs from other people, but when I heard it, I started crying. When I feel emotions so strongly from hearing something that somebody else has said, I know it's something I needed to hear. I was just like, “let me try it out” and if my voice didn't fit, it was so good that I would want somebody else to sing it because it just needed to be out in the world.

I absolutely loved how perfectly you fit into that track! It was so personal and relatable, major kudos to you for that. I bet "Deserved" must have been quite a challenge to record, right? What made you decide to open up and share it publicly like this?

I had processed it enough to be able to share that story. It's something that I know a lot of people go through and I don't hear a lot of people sing about it. I think it's easier for me to open up about things like that when there's a track behind it because when the words come out, it becomes a stream-of-consciousness thing, and it just flows when you're telling the story. I was able to take myself back to that time and it was painful, but it was needed and I hoped it was going to create a safe space for other people who had been through something similar.

Well, we appreciate your willingness to open up and be vulnerable. Would you mind sharing with us one of the songs from your album that brought you immense joy during the recording process?

I would say it's between Bitter Bitch Introlude and LMK (Let Me Know). Bitter Bitch Introlude brought me joy because It's just a fun song to sing and even though it's so fun, there's a lot of truth to it. Even though it’s such a playful track behind it, and I'm singing it so cute, there is definitely some trauma that I haven't gotten past and I'm clearly bitter towards this person about. I was really proud of myself for being able to say things like, “I don't care about you, but the shit that you put me through still sticks with me - so I'm holding a grudge towards you.” I was able to kind of conquer that in a super light way. So that was fun.

LMK (Let Me Know) was fun because we recorded that and wrote it at midnight or something, in the middle of nowhere in Florida. It was just the vibe that we had. It was dark and moody, at midnight. We had all these cool lights on in the studio. It was giving attitude. And everyone was so excited about starting this project and about how great it was already coming along. It just felt right.

Let's talk about attitude and mood a bit because there's this amazing vibe that runs through all of your tracks. How do you effortlessly capture that mood with your vocal performance?

I have no idea. I will listen back to the song and be like, “Who the fuck did that because that wasn't me.” I just kind of black out when I'm singing something because I REALLY feel that emotion. And then when I'm doing vocal production, I'm not even focused on anything else but being able to let the harmonies just come to me and flow. So I have no idea how that comes so effortlessly.

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I have been a longtime admirer of your work, ever since your early EP days and the Kiki project. How do you perceive your sophomore album in relation to your previous projects? What valuable insights did you gain from your debut process that have influenced the creation of your current project, "Grudges"?

I think the biggest difference is not caring about how many stories I have to tell. In therapy you have a time limit but with music, you don't. Clearly. I took three years to make this album. I had so many opportunities to speak my truth and tell my stories. That created more tracks and more of an opportunity to connect with people and hopefully give them something that will be the soundtrack to their reflection and their growth.

While this album has a perfect summertime vibe as you listen to it, you'll notice how it can perfectly complement any season. Towards the end of the album, you'll experience a delightful transition, creating a mellow and soothing atmosphere. What was the creative process behind dropping it in June?

We just hit a lot of obstacles and there was no time where we were like, “this is the perfect month to drop it.” It was basically just “let's just get through it and try to get to a month.” I'm actually really happy we got the time to do that because it introduced the album and the theme early on. We were able to figure out a way to visually describe the album even before it came out. Even though it took a while, it at least let people know what was coming.

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I've been really interested in your visual drops for this album and how they all correlate, You've taken a much different approach than I've seen from past lyrical visuals. It's very intimate, and personal, which really reflects the theme of the album. Was that all kind of purposely done, to get those intimate moments of you, you know, in sessions and rehearsal?

Yeah. My manager wears many hats and has many talents. One of them is being able to capture a moment. A lot of them were, yes, very intimate and I love that. I want to show people the process. With KIKI, I was doing vlogs and confessionals while making it which were very emotional for me. Especially, because I'm not used to speaking to a camera and it makes me so nervous. So I love that she went out of her way to make sure that she could capture those moments without me having to speak directly to the camera. It was very genuine and authentic to who I am.

That session of you in Khalid in the studio recording, just that intimate time. What was it like creating with him on that track? And I've kind of seen some buzz on social media of people saying, the two of you should do a collaboration album.

I mean, I am always down to collab with Khalid. He's so talented, but he is also such a sweetheart. I love how genuine he is. Listen, I've met a lot of people in this industry. Not everyone is as kind as Khalid. That is the best way to describe him. He is very genuine and very kind. I love him a lot and, obviously, the world does too.

He seems to be someone in your circle of people you can trust, much like the group of people who helped uplift you and held you down during the early days of your career. How has your friend group changed over the years from your debut album to this sophomore album?

There can definitely be different friendships for different eras, right? There's some people that I've known since I was 15-16 that I still am great friends with. And then, there's a lot of people that grew in different ways than I did. I had a really hard time accepting that everyone you love is not meant to stay in your life because I'm very loyal and I try to be the most loving friend that someone can have. There's definitely been a lot of really crazy changes and important people from my past that are no longer in my life. Which is very sad. But at the end of the day, it's their choice to grow their own way and it's my choice to grow this way and if they don't match up, that's okay but that is weight that I no longer want to carry.

Speaking of growth, at just 12 years old, you penned your first song called 'Secrets of a Diva'. And now, with the opening track 'Bitter Bitch Interlude' on your album, it's amazing to see how far you've come. How does it feel now that the world has heard 'Bitter Bitch' and is reacting to a song you wrote entirely on your own? And how do you feel about your writing abilities now compared to then?

I am so much more confident. I think even before Bitter Bitch Introlude, when I released the SoundCloud project, Unfinished, I felt very confident about writing from such an honest place and from such a deep place. I think we get really caught up in a hit and knowing that I might not write a hit, that I might just write a really amazing song that a lot of people are gonna relate to, has helped me take the pressure off and be more confident in myself.

Is there any advice you could give to an artist going through any kind of insecurities in their own kind of writing abilities?

Take your time. There's not a time limit on this. I know you gotta get money but you have to figure out other ways that you can support yourself while you take the time to figure out your artistry and what is meaningful to you. What kind of artists and what kind of writer you want to be. There's no time limit.

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You previously acknowledged that you did not encounter significant difficulties in dealing with public scrutiny. However, you expressed that the real challenge for you was the personal emotional pressure of feeling as though you let down your parents, family, and supporters at certain moments of your career. Have you found it easier to overcome these challenges?

I'm still definitely my own worst critic. I'm not as afraid to let down my mom as much. She makes sure I know that it's okay to fuck up now. It's okay to just try things. I stopped myself from having the courage to try things so many times in my life, because I was scared and I didn't want to let people down. Now I know my mom's gonna live either way, and she's gonna be proud of me. Just knowing that has allowed me to trust myself a little bit more. I know I'm still going to be my worst critic, but at least I'm not afraid of other people criticizing me as much as I already do to myself.

Your journey has led you through countless experiences, and one of them being acting. Are you considering stepping back into the acting world?

I'm ready. I'm so excited to act again. It's something I love and haven't been able to experience in a while. So I'm definitely ready to get back on set.

When it comes to being critical of yourself, do you feel like you're less critical of yourself in acting than in the music space?

100% I feel like I'm less critical of myself in the acting space because I know that when I get on the set there is a different feeling to being creative. It's weird because I don't know a lot about the acting world so I feel like I have this freedom on set to just try things.

Are there any particular roles that have caught your eye? Perhaps ones that have sparked your interest or made you think, 'I'd love to be a part of that movie' or 'I could excel in that role.' Or maybe you find yourself wanting to explore new opportunities and give something different a try?

I think one of my dream roles would be something like what Zazie Beetz did in The Harder They Fall. She's such a badass. I would love to do something like that.

I can also see you in something like Tomb Raider, you know, Angelina Jolie, assault vibes. I'm excited to kind of see your trajectory in that space, What are some of your favorite shows or movies you've been watching currently?

Oh my god, I'm so sad Succession is over. My cat Shiv is named after Siobhan. I love Siobhan, she's such a bitch…and my cat is also a bitch, so it's perfect. My other cat Bumi. He's named after King Bumi from Avatar: The Last Airbender. That's another one of my favorites. But my all-time favorite is The Office. I have a tattoo of Jim and Pam. I'm obsessed with Michael Scott. He is a fucking idiot but I love it!

Have you ever worked in an office setting? Before?

Actually, I did. I worked at a gymnastics center when I first moved to LA. I started off in the office. I was the worst employee. I was 16-17, so I was really young, but I was making all kinds of crazy mistakes. Everyone in the office hated me, for sure. They always had to clean up my messes to the point where they were like, “You're better with the children. How about you just go teach them gymnastics?” It was a non-competitive gym, so we would just have fun.

Dress Mitiliane Couture, @mitiliane.couture

Shoes Jessica Rich, @jessicarichofficia

Earrings Federica Rossi, @frjewels

I feel your outlook on fame. And success is a lot different than most people in the industry. When it comes to Grudges, what does success look like for you?

Success is being able to connect with people. Knowing that the music I make is, in some way, helping people feel less alone no matter what emotion they're feeling or what they're going through while also still being able to pay my bills. That’s success.

Most definitely! Speaking of connecting with people, there's significant anticipation from your fans for the upcoming tour. Which songs you are particularly enthusiastic about performing on The Grudges Tour?

One of the songs I'm most excited to perform is 'Magic'. I think that's a song that is going to literally feel magical. It feels so good and I hope people leave my show feeling good.

Yes. I love how it closes out the album. For me, Magic just kind of sums up the journey you've been on these last three years. I can't wait for you to perform at it because it's also one of my favorite songs on the album.

A lot of things for you are seeming to be in full blossom, I feel like Kiki was just the start of it. And now here we are, we're Grudges. So I'm excited to see your further progress. If you could write a message in the sky? What would it say?

I would just write “Live” because that can mean multiple things but I think it’s simple enough for anyone to interpret it in whatever way they need to hear it. It could mean “Live in your truth and make your own choices no matter what people think of you.” Whether that’s about what you’re going to eat for lunch or something as big as buying a house. It could also mean“don't be afraid to live”. Nothing is guaranteed and we're not going to be here forever. So don't forget to just live.

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