Kelly Rowland Finds Her Lane On “Talk A Good Game” (FINALLY!)
Kelly Rowland has been on a bit of a roll lately. Her last album, Here I Am, performed well on the charts. She had a stint as a judge on the UK version of The X Factor. And, just recently, she has garnered a post on the US version of The X Factor.
And now her newest album, Talk A Good Game, has been released. Once again straddling her R&B and pop leanings, Kelly delivers a body of work that, for once, reflects who she is as an artist as well as a person.
The only logical place to start is with the album cover. In her sheer shirt, we see a new Kelly. This Kelly is confident, assured of her sexuality, and standing on her own outside of Destiny’s Child. All of this is reflected in her work.
Interestingly, the initial lead single “Ice” has been left off of the album. It was a moderately successful single, but after listening to the album in its entirety, it is clear that the song simply didn’t fit with the others.
Very reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, you almost can’t help but get into the groove. And “Freak” is a perfect introduction to the album. Curiously, this song was included on Jamie Foxx’s album Best Night of My Life way back in 2010. And though I can see the merits of both versions, Kelly’s is a much bigger standout. I don’t know what has gotten into her, but she has found a way to capture sensuality and sexuality in her vocals.
2. Kisses Down Low
OK, the subject matter here is pretty straight to the point. And while that may be offensive at first, there is no denying this song’s appeal. Kelly is able to flex her sex muscles as well as give a pop radio friendly crossover sound. This song really shows how Mike WiLL Made It is poised to become the top producer in the R&b arena.
The video is bright and playful. And it shows Kelly in a light that we haven’t seen her in before. Instead of being overtly sexual (to the point of inducing discomfort), she now comes across ad 100% comfortable in her skin.
3. Gone (feat. Wiz Khalifa)
In my book, this is the clear standout of the album. Sonically, it falls right into her wheelhouse. It plays off of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”, think Janet Jackson’s Got Til It’s Gone, though this take is decidedly more uptempo. And it just feels current and classic all at once. Kelly’s personality shines through here, authentically taking the strong woman stance, and you really want to root for her. I really could do without the Wiz Khalifa verse, but the song doesn’t suffer for it.
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4. Talk a Good Game (feat. Kevin Cossom)
Love is all about reciprocity. And Kelly is letting you know that she is going to hold you to that. It is clear that Kelly has come out of her hardships a better, stronger woman that wants to inspire others to do the same. This is a nice one to just let play on repeat. It’s a really chill, easy listen. And only 4 tracks into the album, I’m getting the feeling that Kelly set out to create an album that you can ride to.
Rating: 4/5 (I was tempted to dock this rating by one point simply for the use of the non-word “mines”)
5. Down On Love
Kelly keeps the sharing going on this one. You can hear how sick she is of dealing with relationships in her voice. And while she is discussing a heavy topic, the song doesn’t weigh you down. Once again, it’s an easy listen, but I wish that Kelly would get out of this cycle of filling her album with mid-tempo songs. But you can’t really fault her for sticking to what works. The only problem with that methodology is that it becomes much more difficult to appreciate the songs.
Easily the most buzzworthy song on the album, I already did a review of it when it hit the internet. I really like how the song speaks from a place of having get to something off of your chest and deal with the mess once and for all. And even though everyone focuses on the references to Beyoncé, there is much more depth there. Take a listen to understand Kelly on a new level.
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7. You Changed (feat. Beyoncé & Michelle)
If “Gone” is the standout on the album, this is a close second. Much more than the weak “Nuclear” that Destiny’s Child released on their greatest hits album, this song shows how much each of the three ladies have grown since the Destiny’s Child days. And it also shows that their chemistry is rock solid. It is all the more amazing knowing that they each recorded their pieces separately.
Where Beyoncé was always a clear frontwoman before, things are finally starting to feel more balanced. Each girl brings their own flavor, neither more superior that the other. Ultimately, it revives the hopes of DC3 fans that they will get back together and produce more material.
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8. I Remember
At this point, Kelly starts to transition from her R&B side to her dance leanings. She allows her voice to float through this midtempo track, reminiscing on the good times of a relationship. In production and vocal styling, this heavily reminds me of songs off of Kelly’s debut album, Simply Deep.
9. Red Wine
Another midtempo, dance-leaning track, Kelly really experiments with layering her vocals. On a track that doesn’t seem to be about much, she scores points for the thumping 90’s beat and for letting the production be the star. Kelly also is able to use her voice like a true instrument, and her vocals blend with the track to create a cohesive sound. That’s a risk that takes courage.
10. This Is Love
Another song that’s not about much. This one never quite gets off the ground. The lyrics are whack, the track is sleepy, and Kelly never takes it anywhere. I really don’t understand why this is even on the album. I mean … did she just have a goal for number of tracks?
11. Street Life (feat. Pusha T)
Kelly went real ratchet on this one. Why do all of these artists feel like they need to have at least one ratchet song on their albums? Honestly, her vocal delivery hits its lowest point here. I get the feeling she meant to make some kind of statement, but she just comes off as being ignorant.
12. Stand In Front of Me
This one comes as a little bit of a shock. It sounds straight out of Motown. Kelly’s vocal tone actually matches this type of music very well, even if her phrasing sometimes falls apart at the end of her phrases. Still, this song suffers from what almost the entire second half of the album suffers from: Kelly doesn’t make any moments happen. The song doesn’t build, and Kelly doesn’t make any part feel more special than another.
13. Sky Walker (feat. The-Dream)
Kelly and The-Dream match shockingly well vocally. There were moments where I didn’t even realize that The Dream had taken over for Kelly. Their voices are really that similar. And I can picture them having so much fun in the studio putting this together. And while I am not a huge for of this, I can feel the joy and the freedom. And that makes me enjoy it a bit more than I might have otherwise.
14. Put Your Name On It
Kelly manages to make some rather heavy sexual content more digestible here. Her bounce and strength are packaged just as they should be, and the track has a feel good sound. This is riding music. Roll the windows down, turn it up and belt the notes out with her, whether you are able or not.
Another Mike WiLL Made It production, this carries his signature sound. This doesn’t quite have the full appeal that some of the other tracks might, so I can understand why it was only added a bonus track.
Kelly has shown a massive amount of growth on this record. Her vocal control has increased significantly and she seems focused on creating quality work. Though I couldn’t call this the widest ranging or most diverse body of work, the entire collection is cohesive. Sometimes, I think these artists work too hard trying to chase the charts, when what they should be doing is making the charts follow them. And Kelly has effectively done that here. Honestly, no matter how well the album sells, the steps that Kelly has taken in redefining herself here are priceless.
Overall Rating: 4/5
What are your thoughts on the album? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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