“Altar” by Kehlani

To be totally honest, it isn’t abundantly clear what the title of this piece is supposed to mean within context. Yes, this is clearly a love song, though the title itself is religious in nature.

Usually when these two concepts are combined, i.e. romance and an “altar”, what is being referred to is an idea like marriage. And it is arguable that Kehlani is using the latter in such a manner, i.e. to point to a desire to be in a long-term relationship with the addressee. However, considering that, on the same line she states that she’s ‘putting him on an altar’, she also asks him to “stay just a little bit longer”, that latter statement doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of a lifelong commitment. 

Indeed to put something on an altar, as commonly understood, actually alludes to the practice of religious sacrifice.

And with that thought it mind, how the lyrics actually read are as if the vocalist and addressee are physically separated from each other for whatever reason. So she has gone about engaging in witchcraft, if you will, in the name of being close to him still. 

For instance, in the first verse, it seems that Kehlani is trying to make his face appear in “still water”. In the prechorus, we find the vocalist ‘calling his name’ while having a ‘flame set’. And the second verse is most indicative in terms of revealing that the two of them are not together at the moment, albeit Kehlani still being able to smell the addressee’s perfume. Or after putting this individual “on the altar” in the chorus, then she feels “closer” to him, i.e. conjuring his spirit, so to speak.

But this is just our theory, as we don’t really know that much about such occult matters. What is definitely ascertainable though is that this is a song of a romantic nature which apparently uses a religious metaphor, not directly related to romance in this case, to get its point across.

Lyrics to "Altar" by Kehlani
Kehlani comments on "Altar"

Release of “Altar”

Atlantic Records alongside TSNMI released “Altar” on 15 September 2021. It is the lead single from Kehlani’s third studio album. That album is titled “Blue Water Road”. 

Did Kehlani write “Altar”?

Yes. The songstress is credited as the sole writer of this piece. Actually in addition to being a brilliant vocalist, singer is also known for good songwriting skills.

In regards to the song’s production, that was taken care of by Pop Wansel.



Kehlani is an R&B singer who has been in the game since the late aughts. As noted earlier she has thus far dropped two studio albums. The first was 2017’s SweetSexySavage. The second was 2020’s It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. Both of these albums performed much better critically than they did commercially. 

In fact Kehlani is one of the best known female artists in the hip-hop community. This is a status which she achieved not only through a number of high-powered collaborations but also dating the likes of NBAer Kyrie Irving and rap star YG.

7 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just saying it for clarification but kehlani is a lesbian

  2. Sarah says:

    Kehlani is gay, the song never mentions a “him”. Heteronormative assumption!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lol chill the f— out.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You really did a good job with this piece. Great work.

  5. PK says:

    The lyrics make explicit references to Voudon practices and spiritual beliefs. It’s certainly about a lost Beloved, but in the larger picture it’s about the spirit and the connections between us that transcend the body.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This song’s meaning leans heavily into witchcraft moreso than marriage. Esp. the lyrics which includes, “put YOU on the altar” and lighting a candle while calling your name.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Occult? No it’s spiritual, she is paying homage to someone who has passed away. I get the feeling it’s her mother, as she references ‘perfume’. She is talking about reverence for the ancestors. The religion you speak of is unnatural, this is how we really speak to the other side. Candles, water, food (offering).

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