Two years after the release of her third studio album Here I Am, Kelly Rowland is once again attempting to be one of summer’s soundtracks with her latest effort Talk A Good Game. Having already released the steamy “Kisses Down Low” and the surprisingly reflective “Dirty Laundry” many have anticipated what the entire context of Kelly’s album would be. It’s safe to say that Mrs. Rowland has set herself up to be constantly associated with steamy, sensual tracks (it’s pretty much her thing), but the scope of her new album is neither the sophisticated raunch of past songs (“Motivation”, “Ice”) or the bare-all dark nature of “Dirty Laundry”–it’s a solid attempt at a cohesive R&B album showcasing various aspects of relationships, love and life.
Although “Freak” sports an interesting beat, this album opener is a bit of a disappointment because it’s not an original song. Originally featured on Jamie Foxx’s studio album Best Night of My Life, the Danja produced track has been heard before. Decent song, but opening your album with recycled material isn’t the best way to “talk a good game.”
2. Kisses Down Low
The album’s lead single is surprisingly one of the few fun, sensual moments on the entire standard album. It’s this album’s “Motivation”–a confident, sassy and sexual track. The lyrics describe exactly what Kelly is trying to say….she likes her kisses down low. Down low being, well, you’re grown, you know.
3. Gone Feat. Wiz Khalifa
Released a week before the album, this Harmony produced track features writing from up and coming artist Sevyn Streeter and samples Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (famously sampled on Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”). It’s an album highlight where Kelly focuses on dismissing a relationship. Kelly boasts “There’s a million ways that I could tell you, but I’d rather show you, it’s over and I won’t be back no more…”
4. Talk A Good Game Feat. Kevin Cossom
Kelly shows doubt about a new relationship in this subtle banger. Featuring songwriter (and producer of the track) Kevin Cossom, who elects to rap instead of sing, the track is all about not wanting to end up being the fool in a relationship, resisting falling for someone who is all talk and no action. Kelly’s vocals are beautifully layered in the background. It’s another solid statement.
5. Down on Love
“Tried your love at five in the morning, never thought that you would hurt me….” This mid-tempo continues in the commentary of relationships. This time Kelly isn’t doubtful or dismissive, she’s hurt by the complexities of love and relationships. There are some great vocal moments on this one that is sure to comfort many as it reflects on the typical reasons a relationship can’t or didn’t work out.
6. Dirty Laundry
The incredibly revealing and personally raw track that sees Kelly at her worst moments is probably one of her best moments in her body of work. The piano driven song looks into Kelly’s past insecurities with fame, living in the shadow of former bandmate Beyoncé, and enduring the trials of an abusive relationship. Noted as being therapy to make for her, the song acts as an insight to the often very private singer and sheds lights on several questions regarding her relationship with Bey.
7. You Changed Feat. Beyoncé and Michelle Williams
After having a song about Beyoncé, the next features her and Michelle Williams. Although Bey and Kelly are on the track, it’s very apparent this is NOT a Destiny’s Child track, but a Kelly one. The soulful anthem follows the same theme most Destiny’s Child songs do (breaking up with or being completely over a man), but vocally Kelly shines, like really shines.
8. I Remember
We know Kelly is a dance anthem girl. It’s her thing, but one of the reasons her last effort was lost in translation was because the R&B and dance elements often competed instead of complimented. This track is the closest we get to a dance record, but even still it’s a subdued one that remains in the confines of R&B. It’s a reflective track reminiscing the positives of a relationship before it went downhill.
9. Red Wine
This airy track is effortless. It’s a track that’s easy to overlook but appreciated when it’s not. Kelly convinces that she is worth the chase, worth the love and so much more. “I discovered true love exists, it’s common sense…I’ve got confidence, in love…” The track is all about letting go and letting love take its course.
10. This Is Love
There’s something about this one. One of the album’s highlights has Kelly gushing over the thrills of discovering love. The infectious Arthur McArthur produced track exudes the ease of a great love song. Kelly ignites the track with her vocal delivery. If you’ve ever been in love, you’ll appreciate this number.
11. Street Life Feat. Pusha T
“Oooh, there goes my baby daddy..” starts the enticing track with vintage Neptunes production. You instantly hear Pharrell’s musical influence on this bouncy beat fit with intricate drums. An ode to surviving your environment, but never forgetting where you are from coupled with a bold statement of making it through any circumstance, “Street Life” is a very unexpected and fun moment on the album.
12. Stand in Front of Me
The close to the standard version of the album, “Stand in Front of Me” is retro R&B at it’s finest. It’s a sweet love song about doing whatever you can to please your significant other. It’s sung mostly from the perspective of the guy in a relationship who loves to declare his love for his girl. It’s soft, simple and is another great moment on the album.
13. Sky Walker Feat. The Dream
The incredibly confident “Sky Walker” is the sassy Kelly we’ve become accustomed to. Featuring The Dream, the track is a great declaration of knowing exactly what to do to help someone move on from a previous relationship.
14. Put Your Name on It
Kelly continues with the feisty nature we love on this banger. Although the chorus and title can mislead (she’s actually saying to put your name on her heart), the sensual track also sports some impressive vocals. The electric guitar lies effortlessly under the booming 808’s and synths of the track. It’s a winner.
This Mike Will Made It track closes out Kelly’s deluxe edition of her album. It’s a track refusing to play second to anyone in a relationship. Almost presented as an ultimatum, Kelly refuses to share her man with anyone, boldly saying “If I’m not the one, then I guess you can call number two..”
Although it had an interesting start, Talk A Good Game proves to be a solid R&B album. It has a great variety and succeeds in showcasing Kelly’s vocals and ability to tackle different aspects of the genre. She cited her influences for the album as Pebbles, Babyface, and New Edition. The album easily draws from those influences and sets itself up to be an impressive nod in Kelly’s body of work. Though with subtle weak moments, the entire album serves as a great commentary on relationships and love.
Highlights: “Gone”, “Down On Love”, “Dirty Laundry”, “You Changed”, “Street Life”, “This is Love”, “Stand in Front of Me”,”#1″
Do you think Kelly has winner with this one?