Kelly Rowland | Here I Am

Kelly Rowland - Here I Am

Kelly Rowland | Here I Am
by Brent Faulkner

R&B singer Kelly Rowland has always been at a disadvantage during her solo career. Despite being her own distinct talent as a vocalist and performer, the former Destiny’s Child member has always played ‘second fiddle’ to the group’s unanimously lauded (and promoted) star Beyoncé. That’s not to say that Rowland has nor had her share of success – a little hit with rapper Nelly was one of the biggest singles if the year (“Dilemma”) and she certainly softened rapper Trina with a slick collaboration (“Here We Go Again”), not to mention her own gold certified debut effort, Simply Deep. If that’s not enough of a resumé in her favor, she eclipses the popularity of fellow Destiny Child member Michelle Williams, who is certainly the most underrated. For all her vocal gifts and ascent from the shadow of Beyoncé, Kelly’s third effort Here I Am is easily her best album. At a slim ten cuts, Here I Am packs a sound punch and yields some distinct gems. Here I Am proves she should never be behind anyone’s shadows.

“I’m Dat Chick” is a solid way to open the effort. Produced and co-written by Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, “Tricky” does what he does best and sets up a desirable palette for Kelly to sing over, intact with rhythmic drum programming. The refrain is particularly effective and catchy: “Work your fist, I’m dat chick…how you know I told you so!” “Work it Man” featuring Lil Playy follows up solidly, if less alluring than the spirited opener. Rodney Jerkins’s production work is solid, but Lil Playy’s rap verses aren’t incredibly noteworthy and the songwriting is okay, though not particularly exceptional. Vocally Rowland is solid, though the performance may not necessarily be deemed ‘memorable.’ “Motivation,” featuring the ever ubiquitous Lil Wayne, atones for any missteps via “Work It Man,” with sound production by the talents of Jim Jonsin and Rico Love. Rowland’s sounds memorable, particularly when she ‘coos’ like a bird on the sensually teasing verses. Lil Wayne is a much more effective collaborator than Lil Playy managing a couple of solid one-liners. The refrain is certainly a highlight: “And when we’re done/I don’t wanna feel my legs/ and when we’re done, I just wanna feel your hands all over me.”. Clearly “Motivation” is a ‘victory lap’ for Rowland.

“Motivation” may be the album’s showstopper, but the hits don’t fade after it’s presence on the track list. “Lay it on Me” featuring Big Sean is as alluring as the best, featuring strong production work from Hit-Boy. Like most of the preceding cuts, “Lay It On Me” is gimmicky, but that is what suits a pop/R&B songstress like Rowland. “Feeling Me Right Now” finds Rico Love back behind the boards, producing another stellar cut for the muse. The highlight might be the rhythmically driven vocals by Rowland. “Turn It Up” is none too shabby itself and it’s great to hear the vocalist lose some of the gimmickry in favor of grit and nuanced ad libs. “All of the Night,” featuring producer/rapper Rico Love, samples 2 Live Crew’s “One and One,” giving the cut a signature 80’s vibe. Like everything else, the cut is solid, but a bit of a downgrade in comparison to the ‘cream of the crop.’

“Keep It Between Us” returns Here I Am to elite status. The cut has a nice ‘under-the-radar,’ low-key vibe, sort of reminiscing back to the seductive vibe of “Motivation.” Two ‘dance-tastic’ cuts close out the effort. “Commander,” the penultimate cut, appeared a while back to build some buzz up for Here I Am. The David Guetta (French DJ responsible for The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”) produced cut is a pleasant surprise for sure, though not a ‘game changer’ per say. Closing cut “Down For Whatever” is less enthralling, though the production by Lady Gaga producer RedOne and Jimmy Joker, along with guest artists The WAV.s is a selling point.

Overall, Here I Am is Rowland’s most cohesive effort to date. If ever one Rowland album were to compete in the R&B/pop chanteuse market, it is this one. It is a slim effort with only ten songs, but no songs are overt misses, which makes this effort so effective. As always, Rowland’s vocals gifts are quite underrated.

Brent Faulkner
The Urban Music Scene