Keyshia Cole • Point of No Return • Interscope • US Release Date: October 7, 2014
One of the most frustrating things when one is the ultimate fan of an artist (‘fan boy’ or ‘fan girl’) is when that artist totally lets you down. Keyshia Cole, as sad as it is to report, has committed that unspeakable, cardinal sin on her sixth LP, Point of No Return. Sigh, sadly, the big-voiced Cole just doesn’t achieve the same cutting edge, ripe brilliance of her previous LPs. There are some respectable moments, but there are also some moments that just don’t do Cole much justice artistically.
From the get-go, Point of No Return has a dark tilt about it. This is exemplified from the “Intro (Last Tango)” where Cole matter-of-factly states “We fuss, we f*ck, we make up / is this really us right now? / Is this really love?” Later she goes on to sing, “I’m so over the sh*t you put me through.” So, if there was any doubt that the situation sucks, Cole lays it to rest. Talk about a tone-setter, “Intro (Last Tango)” is definitely it.
On “Heat of Passion,” Cole is nothing short of dramatic. While emotionally driven performances are her calling card, “Heat of Passion” has plenty of flaws. The verses in particular lack the connection and flow of her best; they don’t lend themselves memorability. She atones somewhat on the refrain, but she never soars nor bites as convincingly as her elite work. Then throw in a raunchy, tacky lyric “All that over some funk ass p*ssy,” and this particular song falls short.
“N. L. U.” brings on 2 Chainz, which is always an experience (no shade). Featuring an R. Kelly sample, “N. L. U.” at least sounds closer to Cole’s lane than “Heat of Passion.” Still, there’s that extra aggression that overbears, obvious by the titular lyric, “n***a like you.” Still the chorus shines if nothing else does, but can’t cover up 2 Chainz’s stale rhymes.
Judging merely by the title, “Next Time (Won’t Give My Heart Away)” is the type of song that plays well to Cole’s artistic sensibilities. Actually listening, the cues and potential are there, but considering Cole has recorded songs like this one previously, this still doesn’t build a high level of enthusiasm. That said, compared to what follows, “Rick James,” “Next Time” just may be the second coming.
Honestly, “Yeah b*tch I’m Rick James” doesn’t suit Cole in the least. Even as slick as the production work is, it sounds like a complete mismatch. Juicy J, much like 2 Chainz was on “N. L. U.” doesn’t help Cole’s cause. Basically, Cole should’ve left “Rick James” alone – or passed the track elsewhere. Similarly, “New Nu” encounters a similar problem – ‘it just don’t feel right!’ Cole referencing “the good d**k just don’t feel the same” comes off cringe-worthy rather than edgy.
Thankfully, “She” arrives in the nick of time giving Point of No Return one of its few unquestionably, worthwhile songs. Again, “She” doesn’t quite have the power of Cole’s classics, but there’s more substance to latch onto than either “Rick James” or “New Nu.” Yes, the production is still ‘ambitious’ for an artist as soulful as Cole where her voice could shine in a more sparing setting, but it fits better than others – plus you pick your battles sometimes.
By “Believer,” it seems as if Cole has gotten some of the ‘filth’ out of her system. The adult contemporary R&B savvy seems to be safely back intact. ‘Don’t call it a comeback,’ but fans should appreciate the familiarity if nothing more.
“Love Letter” proceeds, again not without some miscues. Future is undoubtedly a popular collaborator given his unique sound, but again, this pairing isn’t ideal. Also hurting the cause is that while “Love Letter” has promise, it is also ‘all over the place.’ “Win some, lose some,” as the old saying goes.
Penultimate cut “Party Ain’t A Party” brings on Gavyn Rhone, who easily the bet collaborative match for Cole. While “Party Ain’t a Party” is a bit of a bore, the vocal performances of Cole and Rhone outclass the song itself. The soaring “Remember (Part 2)” concludes Point of No Return, staying truest to Cole’s work on her best LP, Just Like You. Vocally, it feels like Cole has really gotten her ‘swag’ back here – or maybe it’s just she’s finally returned to her niche.
As hard as it is to say, Keyshia Cole has delivered better albums than Point of No Return. This LP just never contains the same grandeur and finesse of her best work. While Cole has had albums be a shade less than her usual consistency, this one is a bit more pronouncedly so. Moments like “Next Time (Wont’ Give My Heart Away),” “She” and “Remember (Part 2)” keep the effort from being a total miss, BUT there are still some ill-fitting, unremarkable moments for such a gifted musician.
Favorites: “Next Time (Wont’ Give My Heart Away),” “She” & “Remember (Part 2)”
★★★ (been on the fence…)