Opinion: Why Keyshia Cole Doesn’t Have To Sell ‘Angry R&B’

Features

/ August 6, 2014

Keyshia Cole just needs to make better songs, whether happy or heartbroken


Keyshia Cole’s marriage has crumbled, and judging from her Instagram postings—increasingly centered on the codependent themes of “fuck love” and “men ain’t shit”—she doesn’t seem to be at the place Oprah would deem “her best self.” For the fans dismayed by Keyshia’s last few albums—the so-so Woman to Woman and the oh so disappointing Calling All Hearts, respectively—her personal pitfall has inspired hope about her professional future. This is largely fueled by the belief that, like her musical mother Mary J. Blige, her happiness watered down her music. Yet, very few people sang along with me about slapping a bitch like Rick James, and even I joined the chorus in ignoring other recent Keyshia releases, “Next Time (Wont Give My Heart Away)” and “She,” which is one of those bandwagon bisexual-themed songs that typically wears on the last nerve of anyone sitting alongside the LGBT rainbow.

During a recent interview with The Breakfast Club, Keyshia Cole was asked why some of her new singles weren’t connecting. She said she didn’t know, but I have an idea: They’re not especially great. It has nothing to do with the sentiment in her songs, be it anger or unabashed joy; it’s an issue of how these songs are structured. The same goes for the post-happy Mary J. Blige albums (2005’s The Breakthrough excelled) that hardcore fans supported out of loyalty, but tossed aside in their heads in favor of the first three or four albums. Mary has since found her way. The decent Think Like A Man Too soundtrack, the very interesting collaboration with Disclosure, and word of a new project in which she will record a whole album in London consisting of works solely crafted by U.K.-based producers. Mary is no longer singing from the very bottom of her soul, but her music is not immediately bottom barrel because of it. That suggests focus and effort, which is Keyshia’s new songs thus far have appeared to lack. Keyshia has acknowledged that her recording sessions for her forthcoming album have come in the form of “freestyles,” some of which have been partially brought to us by the kind of liquid courage one gets before sipping alcohol. No issue with that, but maybe after one sobers up, it’s time to take a more serious assessment of what’s being released. Like, be mad if you’re mad, but make sure it’s the sort of emotion that will resonate with listeners in a catchy way, i.e. Tiny’s new solo single, “What the Fuk You Gon Do?” Or even when being sexy, “She” is nothing like the sublime “Hey Sexy.” The latter was initially supposed to be a single from Keyshia’s last project, but was never released. I’m not sure what Keyshia’s status with The-Dream is after her comments about Beyoncé’s “Bow Down,” but if not him, she should find some other producer who can help better flesh her ideas out. There’s still a place for Keyshia Cole, but no matter what she’s feeling when she’s singing these new sings, they need better hooks. Michael Arceneaux is from the land of Beyoncé, but now lives in the city of Master Splinters. Follow him at @youngsinick. Photo Credit: Getty Images