She’s back! No, not Beyonce, not yet anyways. But her former Destiny’s Child bandmate, Kelly Rowland, has just released her 4th studio album, Talk A Good Game. With her stock as high as it’s ever been thanks to the Super Bowl, and her new role as judge on X Factor, Kelly had to really come correct with her music. More people are watching her now, more than ever. So, did she deliver?
Kelly grabbed some of the hottest producers of the moment, but this record sounds nothing like a Rihanna album. And by that, I mean Kelly didn’t grab the hottest producers and songwriters and create an album with 8 different genres, all meshing what the hottest sounds of the moment are. Kelly grabbed Mike Will Made It for “Kisses Down Low,” but she didn’t have him create something that completely bit off a Juicy J or Future record. She used his expertise to create a gliding R&B gem, that’s both fun and flirty, while still packing quite the knock.
That theme is followed up throughout the entire album. With producers like Pharrell (who has 2 top 5 singles at the moment), Mike Will Made It (who’s dominating the urban landscape at the moment), The Dream, T-Minus, Danja, and Boi-1-da all contributing to this album, Kelly could’ve easily create a Rihanna type album, but she didn’t. She created a super solid, super cohesive R&B effort which for the most part is a vibey journey that walks the line between sexy and sensual. From the jump, we get a glimpse into the super in-your-face sex kitten Kelly on album opener “Freak.” “Freak” happens to be a track that was made for Jamie Foxx and was even on his 2011 album, but somehow, it’s wound on Kelly’s album as well. And it’s not at all a bad thing, because the track is very strong, and cinematic in the way it builds; perfect for starting the album.
The album then goes through a few good songs like the aforementioned “KDL” and the Wiz Khalifa assisted “Gone,” but neither of which are as strong as “Talk A Good Game,” the album title track. Featuring Kevin Cossom and produced by T-Minus, “TAGG” is a tale about a guy he gives Kelly’s empty promises over and over, “talking a good game,” talking the talk, but not walking the walk. The cadence of Kelly’s flow mixed with the hip hop leaning beat make for a perfect match. Things slow down after this song as we make way for the super big moment of the album, “Dirty Laundry.” The lyrics go from shocking in the first verse to gut-wrenching in the third verse. Kelly herself even has trouble uttering the moments that shatter her life years ago; you can hear her gasp for air numerous times as the song goes along. It’s a heavy moment, a deep moment, one that you have to commend Kelly for sharing with us.
The album then takes a much needed joyous turn as “You’ve Changed” starts and instantaneously a smile is brought to your face as you hear those now legendary harmonies of girl group Destiny’s Child, for the first time since 2005. The song keeps with the classic DC3 structure (Kelly on the 1st verse this time, but Beyonce has a verse, and Michelle gets the bridge), but it really shows off the growth in the vocals of all three ladies, especially the first two. It’s an album track, but based off of pure catchiness and joy this song brings, we could see it being a future single, even if only for adult R&B radio.
Kelly’s last album, Here I Am, saw her venture into the unfamiliar world of dance with songs like “Commander” and “Down For Whatever.” This time, Kelly keeps the dance influence to a miminum, although on the The Runners-produced “I Remember”, Kelly mixes the worldly drums, synths and trance sounds of dance into a cascading dance/R&B mid-tempo. It’s very jungle-like, very contemporary, almost like the type of music we heard on Dawn Richard’s debut album, Goldenheart. A genius moment.
The rest of the songs, like “Stand In Front of Me”, “Put Your Name On It,” and “Skywalker” are super sexy, lyrically charged, strong efforts (especially “Put Your Name On It”, which we could see as a potential single), but none come close to the genius of “Street Life.” “Street Life” is a very different track for Kelly. It’s produced by Pharrell and features Pusha T, and sees Kelly get sassy about real life, societal issues over a funky, island-tinged beat. The song is so quality, unlike what we’ve gotten used to in R&B; it has that kind of feel good knock that we loved in the early 2000s and abandoned for Molly as of late. It’s even reminiscent of early Destiny Child song “Jumpin, Jumpin” at moments. It just feels good, this track does. Pharrell has been on a serious roll with his beats in 2013.
This album could have easily been made in 2005 or 2009 or today, but either way, it sound throwback yet current. It’s a great R&B album, and you don’t see that too much anymore. You see either super soulful records, or super pop records. Not just good, solid contemporary R&B. And that’s exactly what Kelly has delivered with this new album. And that’s exactly why she’s the biggest female in R&B at the moment. Our one gripe is that after the Destiny’s Child reunion that is “You’ve Changed,” the album gets quite boring. Had Kelly replaced “Red Wine” and “This Is Love” with two higher energy, booming tracks ala Beyonce’s “Countdown”, the album would’ve been perfect. It has 3 big moments: “Kisses Down Low” (which has grown drastically on us), “Dirty Laundry”, and “Street Life”. Aside from those 3 moments, the albums sounds like all fillers. Great fillers, but all fillers, for the most part.
If Kelly’s team is smart, “Street Life” should be the next single, as it has summer smash written all over it. Then in the fall, she can release one of the more R&B leaning tracks like “Talk A Good Game” alongside the crossover hit “I Remember”, which will be catered to the X Factor USA audience. This album should definitely be Gold by the end of the year if her label plays their cards right.
Standout Tracks: “Kisses Down Low” , “Dirty Laundry” , “Street Life” , “Skywalker” , “Put Your Name On It” , “Talk A Good Game”
Could’ve Done Without: “Gone” , “This Is Love” , “Red Wine”