Amazing grace! How sweet the sound. Kelly Rowland once was lost, but has indeed been found.
Following the 2011 release of a somewhat disappointing third album, Here I Am, Kelly makes a strong return with her latest effort “Talk a Good Game.”
After nearly two decades in the music industry, it seemed as though Ms. Rowland hit a creative wall. She’s always had the talent, beauty and personality to take her career to the next level, but stood in her own way with lackluster material.
Now, Kelly arrives with a cohesive, well-produced project that highlights her musical strengths. Appearances on the album, including the likes of Beyoncé, Michelle Williams and The-Dream, are just an added bonus.
Our goal is not to compare Kelly to her contemporaries but to assess and appreciate her growth as an artist.”Talk a Good Game” is compelling from beginning to end and it fully reaffirms our faith in her.
“Talk a Good Game” opens with “Freak,” setting a high-energy mood with its sporadic beat and provocative lyrics. The song, originally performed by Jamie Foxx, embodies her risqué side while also demonstrating a degree of maturity. The album is off to a good start and I think she did a fine job with her take of the song.
Kisses Down Low
As the lead single for the album, the less-than-stellar chart performance of “Kisses Down Low” gave her new era a dismal beginning. Produced by Mike WiLL Made It, the song follows the sexual charge she led with her previous singles, “Motivation,” “Lay it on Me” and “Ice.” This formula has become a bit redundant for the singer and though the song is not bad, it really does not represent Kelly’s growth.
Gone (feat. Wiz Khalifa)
Wiz Khalifa is enlisted for the Harmony Samuels-produced anthem, “Gone.” Kelly sings, “There’s a million ways that I could tell you/ But I think I’d rather show you it’s over/ And I won’t be back no more.” Rowland’s vocals on this track are neither too big nor too small, complementing the bass-heavy beat. Khalifa’s verse on “Gone” adds a nice touch and I think that, overall, the song should perform well on radio.
Talk a Good Game (feat. Kevin Cossom)
The album’s title track puts things into perspective, foreshadowing the emotional journey the remainder of the project entails. Perhaps this would have been a more suitable song to open the album, but it is still great as it stands. “If love is free and talk is cheap/ Don’t make me pay for your mistakes, boy,” buzzes Kelly. Kevin Cossom, who serves as the song’s co-producer, also features on it and his verse is rather short and sweet.
Down on Love
“Down on Love” is another vocally impressive song on which the mezzo-soprano wanders more freely through her vocal range and offers well-placed runs. The smooth background vox are one of the song’s standout features, evoking a subtly relaxed aura. Kelly sings about feeling neglected by her lover, pleading that she wishes to give things another try only if her efforts are reciprocated.
Co-penned by The-Dream, this track unfolds like a diary entry as Rowland croons about once being in an abusive relationship and being turned against her close sister-friend Beyoncé. Each verse of “Dirty Laundry” pulls you deeper into the story and the song is easily Kelly’s most vulnerable, ever. The track’s clean production puts the lyrics front and center, though you may have to listen to the song a few times to fully grasp every jaw-dropping detail. “Kinda lucky I was in her shadow/ Phone call from my sister, ‘What’s the matter?'” she pours out. “She said, ‘Oh no, baby, you gotta leave!’/ ‘I’m on the kitchen floor, he took the keys.'”
You Changed (feat. Beyoncé and Michelle Williams)
It’s not technically a Destiny’s Child reunion but it might as well be. Kelly taps former bandmates, Beyoncé and Michelle, for “You Changed,” a song reminiscent of their 2004 hit, “Girl.” Their vocals on the song are refined yet full, while the harmonies are simply delectable. “You Changed” is laid-back with a timeless nature, making it sound like classic DC.
“I Remember” is a lovely R&B ballad that combines urban elements with a bit of techno and EDM. Kelly’s light voice breezes beautifully over the The Runners-produced instrumental as she sings, “I remember when you loved, when you loved me.”
Kelly gets vintage with “Red Wine,” serving up some insane harmonies and vocal layering on the old school track. The tone of her voice is divine, especially as she dips into her lower register. “Red Wine” is very Brandy-esque but works perfectly with Rowland’s voice.
This is Love
“This is Love,” produced by Arthur McArthur, is seductive yet classy. “I’m waiting and anticipating for you to give it to me/ Boy I’m trying to hold it inside,” goes Kelly. “Heart racing, my body shaking/ ‘Cause when you give it to me, boy you are the truth, I can’t lie …”
Street Life (feat. Pusha T)
Kelly switches up the pace with the up-tempo “Street Life.” Pharrell did a phenomenal job on production while Pusha T’s verse didn’t really add much to the song. I especially love the funky vibe of “Street Life” and it sounds like a great summer jam. I’m feeling it.
Stand in Front of Me
The emotional roller coaster comes to a gentle end with this flirty track, “Stand in Front of Me.” Love is in the air and Kelly isn’t afraid to let the world know. She chimes, “He said, ‘stand in front, let me palm that, show ’em you’re my girl and that is that.'” Rowland’s voice is soft and sensual.
“Talk a Good Game” is Kelly’s best work since her 2007 sophomore “Ms. Kelly.” The production on the album is stellar, as well as the lyrical depth.
Refund: “Kisses Down Low”
Refill: “Dirty Laundry,” “Red Wine,” “Stand in Front of Me”
RATING: 3.5 out of 5