Kelly Rowland is absolutely stunning – few would deny this. Rowland also has lovely voice – some may dispute this given the type of records Destiny’s Child made as well as Rowland’s own, but I think some would agree. Rowland does have the ‘package’ to be an R&B star, BUT she has yet to breakthrough. There are several reasons for this, and yes among the biggest has been the stardom of one Beyoncé. In every boy/girl group, there is usually one star. Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Nick Lachey, etc. But also, there has seemed to be an identity issue with Rowland and where she best fits in the R&B spectrum. It has always been obvious that Rowland should avoid any career steps that sound like Beyoncé – and she has, for the most part. Rowland’s first hint of some semblance of true critical and some commercial success came with “Motivation“, that sensual song that turns you on just listening to it.
Here’s the potential problem. “Motivation” gave Rowland ‘footing’ to make a career statement, three solo albums in. Here I Am benefited from better material and arguably the fact it was a stronger album than Beyoncé’s own 4, which came out the same year (I thought so at least). While I like singles “Ice” and the much more sexed-up “Kisses Down Low” (please don’t let your kids sing it!), now it feels as if Rowland may be looking to ‘over-sexualize’ to sell albums. There is nothing wrong for Rowland to go edgy, but she probably should avoid overdoing so like say Janet Jackson has done during points of her career (yes, I’m speaking to you Damita Jo , 2004 with songs including “Sexhibtion“, “Strawberry Bounce“, and more alarmingly “Moist“). That brings us to the revealed album artwork for Rowland’s fourth album Talk A Good Game.
So that album cover…um, yeah… Kelly. So she ‘puts it all out there’. Here’s my thoughts. R&B males use this strategy quite frequently – the ‘sex sells’ strategy. D’Angelo, Trey Songz, Tank and Marques Houston have all used their perfect abs to woo in ladies. It’s not unusual (regardless of your opinion), to see a chiseled dude on the front of an album cover. So the female feminist perspective might be, why can’t a female R&B artist do the same thing? Well they can, but sometimes shock value doesn’t have it’s intended effect, regardless of being male or female. If the cover of Talk A Good Game is meant to tease or entice guys (and it is enticing to many guys to see a beautiful woman like Rowland clothed or skimpily clothed), will that make guys buy the album?
My answer is maybe and maybe not. Rowland hasn’t been churning gold-selling albums, and what’s to say she will here. My thoughts would be that more females would tend to purchase Rowland, so even if Rowland poses so enticingly, she may not get the desired effect. Couple this with “Kisses Down Low” failing to be a big hit (it has peaked at no. 72 on the Hot 100 as of yet and is losing steam) and perhaps even eye and ear candy aren’t enough. The biggest barrier for Rowland may be her juggernaut competition on June 18 – Kanye West, J. Cole, and Mac Miller. All three debuted at no. 1 with their previous release with six figures. Rowland’s previous album debuted at no. 3 with 77,000 copies.
As for latest single “Dirty Laundry“, the pros are it manages to show a different side of Rowland. That said (aka the cons), it does NOT seem like the proper single to propel Talk a Good Game to the next level. It’s definitely heavier than anything she’s released and it’s also a bit too lethargic in tempo. Okay for inclusion on the album in my opinion, “Dirty Laundry” is not a ‘single’. Also, from a producer’s standpoint, the cut feels a bit ‘unfinished’.