R&B singer and oft-accused Mary J. Blige copycat Keyshia Cole attempts to differentiate herself from her biggest influence by introducing a softer side of herself on her junior effort, A Different Me, a fact that is made unequivocally clear on the album’s slinky opening intro (“I would like to introduce a sexier side of me”) and which is not-so-coincidentally followed by “Make Me Over,” in which Cole begs to have her previously street-wise image all dolled up atop a shuffling go-go beat and effusive organ runs. Throughout, Cole trades in her true-to-life thug-girlfriend persona for more coquettish branding, and the album gets off to a promising start with the abovementioned tracks, the Ciara-esque “Please Don’t Stop,” and “Erotic,” but Different Me quickly lapses into a whole lot of midtempo and slow-jam filler before picking up the pace again with the lush disco nugget “Beautiful Music” at album’s end. Like Blige, Cole luckily possesses the vocal talent to carry the album through weaker moments like the cheesy “This Is Us.” And tracks like the lead single “Playa Cardz Right,” which features yet another post-mortem rap courtesy of 2Pac, are proof positive that while you can pile on the makeup and leopard-print bodysuits, it’s hard to take the girl out of the hood.
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