Kelly Rowland – Here I Am
2 stars out of 5
In the grand scheme of things, Kelly Rowland’s latest Here I Am is a better body of work than her other previous outings, by way of a hit single and some international exposure to actually give her a chance on the charts competing in a world full of singles-driven pop artists and R&B that has been decimated by the addition of the 4-on-the-floor Euro sound. That being said, if you zoom out and look at the big picture of Kelly’s musical output and her musical persona, Here I Am is still a pastiche of misshapen attempts and falters of dance-pop mixed with a mélange of R&B sensibilities and her internationally influenced dance successes that have inextricably woven their way into her musical DNA. Here I Am is not terrible, but we still, as listeners, walk away with the feeling that we just digested the musical equivalent of cotton candy – after it melts away, we still feel empty with a weird yet not unpleasant aftertaste.
After 4 singles that failed to basically make an impact on the charts, hearts, and minds of all but the fiercest Kelly Rowland stans, “Motivation” landed like the Golden Ticket that Kelly needed to get her finally out of the shadow of Beyonce’ – but even then, her own success is still marred by the press and casual fan as “Motivation” settles into the psyche like a slinky sexy sexbot fueled naughty girl jam. The addition of Lil’ Wayne all but made the cliché track a pop-radio staple. Yet and still, “Motivation” pulls the wool over your eyes as nothing else on the album sounds like it and will probably not match its seemingly overnight success.
Not to begrudge Kelly her first bonafide hit, but one wonders if the slip-shod approach of working to find a single that “stuck” didn’t hamper the flow and legitimacy of her album. Overall, there are few tracks that are really memorable outside of the album. The semi-noticeable “Commander” is one that was somewhat enjoyable, mostly for its pounding pulse and musical directive to dance. “Keep It Between Us” is another joint that stands out due to Kelly’s plaintive yet soft and convincing soprano and the breezy backbeat. “Down For Whatever” could spin in the middle of an Ibiza dance set with a simple match of its high BPM and template vocal hook.
Outside of those few tracks, this album feels like one big letdown. It’s not as if we aren’t rooting for Kelly – who doesn’t want to see the seemingly eternal underdog finally get some form of comeuppance? We can only hold on to hope for so long, and to be honest, there are other things one should invest it. Kelly Rowland is a beautiful chanteuse who seemingly has all the tools to be a “star”, yet she can’t seem to break that glass ceiling that seems to hold her back from worldwide domination. Is it that she has the tools but can’t comprehend how to use them? Does one blame her team? Is a wholly and complete shift to the dance world what Kelly needs?
Instead of Here I Am being an accurate prognosticator of Kelly’s musical future, it instead serves up more questions and creates more dead ends than any of her previous works have done. In an age of divas that pop up overnight, Kelly’s longevity has been well documented, and she has the 4 videos from the failed singles during the crafting of this album to indicate that she has had numerous chances to get it right. Only time will tell if she does and if we care long enough to stick around for her, and us, to figure out who she is.