It seems merely five minutes ago that dance-pop hit-maker Kelly Rowland had last hit the air waves, but here we are, almost surprisingly, on album number four. Not quite the pop powerhouse that is Beyonce (aka. Queen B) yet far vocally superior in comparison to the third member of Destiny’s Child, Michelle Williams, Rowland has an ear for a chart hit. Remember When Love Takes Over, circa 2009, where Rowland featured on a David Guetta smash that ended up being the soundtrack to the summer? Or push back even further to 2002, when Nelly and Kelly’s Dilemma dominated the air waves. The last we heard from Rowland was in 2011, when her third album, Here I Am, spawned the massive dance tunes, Down For Whatever and Commander, but now its 2013, and we’re left wondering what Rowland has to offer the charts next.
The first thing of note is the change in sound. Gone are the club floor fillers of recent years, and we say ‘Hello’ to R’n’B. It is dished out in sultry, sexy spades, and album opener Freak sounds more reminiscent of the dance tracks on her previous album, teasing us with the lines ‘Everybody’s somebody’s freak. The question is – who’s are you? Can I be yours?’, it is quite apparent what the listener is letting themselves in for here. The following track, recent single Kisses Down Low, is even less subtle, with Rowland purring ‘I want my kisses down low, makes me arch my back when you give it to me so, baby just like that’, and with the video having over 11 million hits on YouTube, blatant smutty raunchiness seems to be a winning formula for Rowland fans. It’s not all about sex however, a lot of the songs on Talk A Good Game are about the sad side of love, for example Gone (featuring Wiz Khalifa) a slower, almost cute number that shows off Rowland’s voice, singing ‘I gave you my heart it slipped through your fingers; now you’re the one to blame’. Similarly, the title track featuring Kevin Cossom (who is dangerously close to sounding like a Kanye West impersonator) has Rowland stating ‘I don’t think I can take another broken promise, why do things the harder way when you can just be honest?’ over a jittering beat which manages to compliment the smooth R’n’B.
Talking of smooth, Skywalker (featuring The Dream)is also a good track, possessing an oriental vibe with the strings that compliment it. Other tracks of note include the more experimental Street Life (featuring Pusha T), which is a rowdy stomper of a song combining horns and a tribal beat resulting in one of the more interesting track on the album. And that’s the thing, though the songs are good, they all seem to blend, yes – even the surprise Destiny’s Child reunion, You Changed, which – whilst an exciting prospect, ends up feeling lacklustre, despite their voices reminding the listener why they were the best girl group of the “noughties”. There are not enough stand out tracks to pull Talk A Good Game up into the good album category. Art, passion and vision make a good album, whilst this merely manages to feel like a collection of songs. Rowland’s voice is definitely not the issue here, which is impressive, especially as one of the producers of Talk A Good Game – Lonny Bereal – said that Rowland recorded vocals with zero auto-tune. With that in mind, it is easy to state that the best song on the album is Stand In Front Of Me, a slow and classy number complimented by piano where the main focal point is Kelly’s voice, showing that she really can sing without relying on theatrics.
There is always the unspoken pressure for those who leave a successful project to embark on a solo career to meet or eclipse the previous project’s success. It is easy to see that Beyonce triumphs in eclipsing her band mates, in both vision and vocal range, though on ability it is almost unfair to compare. Rowland is a talented lady. She also co-wrote 14 of the 15 songs on the album (the other being the cover), and the songs aren’t lyrically bad (except maybe Kisses Down Low), it is more the way that they were handled that makes them, unfortunately, a bit forgettable.
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