Tuesday, October 02, 2007

CD Review: Ms. Kelly by Kelly Rowland

As a solo artist, Kelly Rowland has long lived in the shadow of fellow Destiny's Child member Beyonce. Now with Ms. Kelly, her first solo album in nearly five years, Rowland tries to re-establish herself outside of her former group. While she delivers a solid album that successfully distinguishes her from Beyonce, she doesn't do quite enough to separate herself from the rest of the R&B pack.

Rowland effectively reintroduces herself on the hit single (and album opener) “Like This” which features Eve. Over a smooth midtempo Polow Da Don track, Rowland asserts herself: “The girl they used to know done changed / Now they sayin' Miss before they mention my name....”

She also throws her “good girl” image to the wind with “Work.” This fast track features Rich Harrison-esque drums and a chorus where Kelly frantically spouts come-ons to her lover (“Put it in!” “Go hard!”) and tells him “don't come around if you let me down.” Even though this song's tempo might feel more like Beyonce's territory, Rowland handles it very well and makes the song fun and sexy as opposed to dirty or trashy.

After “Work,” the album slows down a bit and it's here where you find some of its best tracks. Two songs deal with romantic regret. “Flashback” has Rowland wondering if she made a mistake in breaking up with her ex. “Still In Love With My Ex” takes it one step further as Rowland tells her current man that she still has feelings for her ex. “The Show” is a duet featuring Tank that works mainly because of their harmonies. While “This Is Love” comes awfully close to being sappy (with lines that compare love to “a diamond in the sand”), great vocals and stripped-down production keep it from becoming cheesy.

The flaws of Ms. Kelly are relatively minor but they add up. Since the more upbeat tracks are front-loaded at the beginning of the album, the slower songs kind of run into each other. The album itself is quite short and runs for less than 44 minutes. Although shorter is usually better when it comes to albums, Ms. Kelly could have used one or two more upbeat tracks mixed in among the slower ones at the end of the album. While the album doesn't have any truly bad songs, it also doesn't have a real standout track.

Ms. Kelly is a good showcase of Kelly Rowland's talent. Rowland sounds good on most of the tracks and the differences between her and Beyonce are clear. Although there are small hints to her Destiny's Child days (“Ghetto” is essentially a smoothed-out retread of “Soldier”), Kelly stands by herself here. Now that she's distinguished herself from her former group member, Kelly now needs to work on making herself stand out from other female R&B singers. Ms. Kelly is a good start and one hopes that Kelly's next album will succeed in further setting her apart from her peers.

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