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Review: K. Michelle's 'Rebellious Soul' LP Is Girl Talk, Unfiltered

Rebellious Soul is the modern woman's manifesto

K. Michelle has come a long way from rather humble beginnings. Before her reintroduction to the world as one of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta’s raucous cast members, Kimberly Michelle Pate was just another line item on Jive Records’ roster. Five years later and with a new home at Atlantic Records, K. Michelle the artist deserves a second look, and not just because of her colorful tresses or the neck-breaking paddy wagon hanging off her back. Her debut album Rebellious Soul offers an uncensored account of today’s average (okay, slightly richer) woman figuring life out at her own pace.

Rebellious Soul paints the portrait of 2013's multidimensional gal: she can be sensitive, lusty, compassionate, short-tempered, worrisome, confident, ratchet and at any given time, may try to hide a part of herself from view. There’s this lofty expectation for a woman to have it all together and be nipped and tucked to perfection a la Beyoncé (because c'mon, who doesn't want to be the better beach?), but as humans, we're all perfectly imperfect, and not in Elle Varner's starry-eyed kind of way. K. Michelle compiles a soundtrack for the non cookie-cutter ladies who are still a work in progress and totally okay with that.

The Tennessee native's latest offering arrives at a time where an R&B purist toying with more international sounds is commonplace. Hodgepodge albums cover anything between pop infusion and EDM sampling. K rejects any such deviation; Rebellious Soul is strictly rhythm and blues. Of the LP's 11 tracks, most of the notes are belted out in hopes that one, she’s convinced listeners she can hang with the big girls, and two, her tea is worthy of spilling. The girl gospel of sorts delves into open forums that typically manifest over libations or a ladies' night in. It ventures all over the place both emotionally and topically. She jumps from citing the source of her aggression (“My Life”) and breakup bounce backs (“Repair This Heart [Interlude]”) to failed attempts at fixing ain't-shit men ("Can't Raise a Man") and the profitable powers of her p-word (“Pay My Bills”). When she tosses the surprise “Coochie Symphony” into the mix, it’s hard not to crack a smile. How can you not be amused by quality opera imitation about a man repairing her lady flower?

For a few tender moments, K. Michelle tucks jokes and obscenities to the side to make way for vulnerability. She admits to moments of low self-esteem and letting others determine her value. “Thought I liked the woman I was, but people keep saying change,” she sings on the somber, piano-driven “I Don't Like Me.” On a positive note, the sweet and soothing album closer, “A Mother’s Prayer,” is an audible plea about a mother wanting nothing but happiness for her young son.

While K. Michelle does a satisfactory job at putting quarrels of the heart on wax in the beginning, the album’s real gold comes from the sonics of its latter half. The lead single “V.S.O.P.” – named after the smooth cognac “Very Special/Superior Old Pale” – is the project’s shining star. The energetic and infectious twist on Debra Laws’ 1981 jam “Very Special” is a bonafide contender for those serious about their karaoke. “Sometimes” also brings out one’s inner shower diva (cuss words notwithstanding, K’s testimony-infused timbre makes it easily mistakable for a Sunday’s Best selection). “When I Get A Man” is jewel number two. The triumphant vocals during the chorus hit you like one of Mrs. Carter’s infamous wind fans (sans the wig snatching). K. Michelle melds flawlessly with her backup singers while dreaming up the day she becomes the perfect Mrs. Her rotational love life may be broadcasted as often as her music is, but just like most, she has dreams of a happy ending.

To say K. Michelle’s a little rough around the edges would be an understatement, but it wouldn't feel right any other way. Although she catapulted her celebrity thanks to train wreck television, the 31-year-old has much more to offer the entertainment world than "shaking the table" moments, Piscean dramatics and a mouthful of expletives. Her keep-it-real charm drew fans in, and her rebellious soul will keep them there. During her public ascent to stardom, K. Michelle isn’t interested in being the ideal role model to her fans. She’s just a woman living and figuring out her life at the same speed as everyone else, enjoying and sharing every bit of the ride with us. —Stacy-Ann Ellis (@stassi_x)

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