“Ya’ll didn’t think that I could bump like this,” Kelly Rowland quips with a ghetto-Southern drawl on the lead single from her sophomore effort, Ms. Kelly. To wit, the former Destiny’s Child member’s solo debut, Simply Deep, gave us no reason to think she could deliver a track as hot and fresh as “Like This,” which was helmed by producer du jour Polow Da Don and features Eve. Rowland always sat shotgun on the bumpy ride that was Destiny’s Child, partly because Daddy Knowles, not Daddy Rowland, was the girl group’s manager (Rowland split with Knowles, who was also managing her solo career, just prior to the release of this album). Rowland also doesn’t have Beyoncé‘s pipes, and, while some might deem that a good thing, she has, until this point, failed to pick up the slack in other areas. This time around, both the production and lyrics are stronger (and less cringe-inducing, even despite red-flag song titles like “Still In Love With My Ex” and with that little nepotist Solange Knowles on tap for the song “Love”). Rowland reportedly shelved the 2006 version of the album, opting to go back into the studio to produce some more “party records,” but there are only three bona fide club jams here; Scott Storch continues to prove his status as Timbaland-lite on “Comeback,” but he delivers on “Work,” a funky, fast-paced thumper in the DC tradition. Rowland displays her range on midtempo cuts like “Flashback,” which, befitting its title, is at once futuristic and retro, and “Ghetto,” a slinky track featuring a smooth, sensual vocal from the singer. But the majority of Ms. Kelly, which putters out amid maudlin ballads like “This Is Love” and a stinky duet with Tank called “The Show,” is exactly why we’all didn’t think that she could bump “Like This”—which makes that track all the sweeter, and its lackluster chart performance all the more bitter.
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