Ms. Kelly's new album proves she's more than just talk
Ever since Kelly Rowland first embarked on a solo career with 2002’s Simply Deep, she’s gradually wandered further and further from the Destiny’s Child formula. By the time she reached her third solo album, 2011’s Here I Am, Ms. Rowland was on a mission to hit every angle of popular music—from the actual pop genre to R&B and the burgeoning EDM scene. It was her most commercially successful effort to date, due largely in part to Kelly’s appealing to multiple audiences, yet Kelly’s fourth solo album Talk A Good Game is far more defined R&B with a modern tinge. Kelly proves she doesn’t need to genre hop to strut her stuff, and it pays off. Tenfold.
Kelly's sensual confidence is on full display from the onset, as the LP opens with the blips and zooms of the Danja-produced “Freak.” Here she discusses a midnight intimate encounter with a stranger and rationalizes it by explaining that, “everybody is somebody’s freak.” Mike WiLL Made It keeps sexy time going, providing delicate keys and MPC taps on the hyper-naughty single “Kisses Down Low.” Any middle schooler with an imagination could deduce that this graphic slow jam—the album’s most explicit cut—has nothing to do with Hershey’s.
There’s a shadow that threatens the spotlight on the 12-track project. You know her as Beyoncé; Kelly calls her “sister” on “Dirty Laundry,” the standout confessional that details Kelly’s subtle envy of King Bey, emotional turmoil and domestic violence bouts. With its dramatic piano keys, the song is open, dark, and beautiful—far more honest than anything the object of her admiration has ever released (though, to be fair, The-Dream penned it). Blue Ivy’s mom lays some actual vocals alongside Michelle Williams on the DC reunion “You Changed,” rectifying the trio's January misfire, "Nuclear." Elsewhere, the Wiz Khalifa-assisted “Gone,” an update on Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (notably sampled for Janet’s ’97 single “Got 'Til It's Gone”), is reminiscent of Bey’s “Irreplaceable” and the breezy Boi-1da-produced “Red Wine” eerily resembles Solange’s recent spacey, ’80s-inspired aesthetics.
Still, this is Kelly’s party, and when she snaps her fingers and rolls her neck over Pharrell’s funky percussion on the Pusha T-assisted “Street Life,” all is right with the world. The album closes with the nostalgic, super-smooth “Stand In Front Of Me,” a spotless soul number made for Sunday morning tidying and summertime twirling.
Kelly Rowland’s Talk A Good Game sets her far apart from the status quo of mass-produced R&B. While she may never shake the pesky Beyoncé interview questions and comparisons, Kelly finally knows who she is and how she’d like to sound. —Kathy Iandoli