|Recording information: Circle House Recording Studios, Miami, FL; Circle House Studios, Miami, FL; Eardruma Studios, Atlanta, GA; East West Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Glenwood Place Studios, Burbank, CA; Glewnwood Place Studios, Burbank, CA; Hit Factory Criteria, Miami, FL; Jungle City Studios, New York, NY; Setai Studios; South Beach Studios, Miami Beach, FL.
|Kelly Rowland had moderate early success as a solo artist, but her releases seemed reactive to the climate of contemporary R&B -- like she was either struggling to find her own voice, or was stifled by the industry. Just as it seemed like she might be neglected for good, the Top 20 Hot 100 hit "Motivation" and the following Here I Am placed her at the forefront of pop-R&B. Instead of a four- or five-year wait -- the length of the gaps between her second and third albums -- Talk a Good Game followed within two years. Unsurprisingly, its makeup is quite similar to that of Rowland's previous release. It begins with a pair of suggestive/explicit tracks in "Freak," a jam co-produced by Danja and Rico Love, and the Mike Will collaboration "Kisses Down Low." After "Motivation" and the conspicuously absent "Ice," the latter verges on overkill but contains a hard-to-resist melody and light-hearted touch. The following "Gone" is a violent derailment that, like Janet Jackson's superior "Got 'til It's Gone," incorporates Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," but the album quickly stabilizes with satisfying, if mostly unexciting, material. Other than the lack of European dance-pop, the main difference between this set and Here I Am is the presence of Rowland's most revealing and powerful song. "Dirty Laundry," made with the-Dream and Carlos McKinney, is an adeptly ornamented ballad that openly details Rowland's envy of Beyonc?'s solo success, as well as the pain that came from an abusive relationship. The mood then lifts with "You Changed," in which she's joined by Beyonc? and Michelle (just Michelle, no last name), but it's anticlimactic, no match for "Nuclear," the track the trio released earlier in the year. Along with the expected suggestive and/or explicit jams, significant deep cuts include like the moody and mellow "Red Wine" and the deluxe-only "Sky Walker" -- another Dream/McKinney track. ~ Andy Kellman