On Talk A Good Game, the latest album from Kelly Rowland, the singer finally emerges from the long shadow of her friend, fellow Destiny’s Child alumna and pop’s reigning queen Beyoncé. This is an album about working things through, coming to grips with bad relationships, sexual or platonic—“Love is pain and pain is love, got me fucked up,” sings Rowland. She brings in some high profile collaborators, like Pusha T, Wiz Khalifa and the Dream, but this is all about Rowland looking for closure, turning away from a cycle of lies, omissions and half-truths.
Kelly Rowland had moderate early success as a solo artist, but her releases seemed reactive to the climate of contemporary R&B -- like she was either struggling to find her own voice, or was stifled by the industry. Just as it seemed like she might be neglected for good, the Top 20 Hot 100 hit "Motivation" and the following Here I Am placed her at the forefront of pop-R&B. Instead of a four- or five-year wait -- the length of the gaps between her second and third albums -- Talk a Good Game followed within two years.
Upon hearing the first words of Kelly Rowland's fourth solo album - "Mirrors on the ceiling, cameras on the corners of my bed" - it's clear that Rowland's exposing herself. That opening track, Freak (a Jamie Foxx cover), piques interest but serves mostly as a tease. Rowland takes us closer with Kisses Down Low, instructing how to give her exactly what she wants.
On Dirty Laundry, the most powerful track of Kelly Rowland's fourth solo album – and indeed, of her career – the former Destiny's Child sings about the jealousy she's felt living in the shadow of her high-achieving former bandmate, Beyoncé. It's become the talking point – but the song's impact derives from the moving way in which Rowland frames her emotions within the context of the domestic abuse she was enduring at the time. She doesn't follow through on Talk a Good Game, though, which reinforces Rowland's status as an artist who can excel on individual tracks rather than albums.
In the years since the members of Destiny's Child went their separate ways, Kelly Rowland has struggled to construct a musical style and persona that would do her considerable vocal talent justice. The first two tracks on her fourth album, Talk a Good Game, seem poised to do the same type of self-defining work that her previous album, Here I Am, attempted. They demonstrate one approach to individualization, as Rowland wastes no time divulging and celebrating her sexual appetite.
Following the breakup of Destiny’s Child, many probably wouldn’t have expected to see Kelly Rowland delivering her fourth solo studio album, Talk a Good Game , with a major record label. She hasn’t reached the success of fellow bandmate Beyonce, but many artists would be more than happy to claim her successes and achievements. Being constantly overshadowed by Beyonce is the subject of the second single off the album, “Dirty Laundry”.
Follow me here: Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé are, respectively, the girl group Lennon-McCartney (with Michelle Williams basically the Ringo). By that I mean, regardless of songwriting or who was really the star, their dynamic was special and profound. But while Queen B is coming off her Band on the Run ish, Rowland’s latest, Talk a Good Game, is basically Lennon’s Some Time in New York City.
It’s been a standard story in the post-Destiny’s Child years that Kelly Rowland has some baggage but with Talk A Good Game, it turns out we didn’t know the half of it. Selling upwards of 25 million solo records still hasn’t quelled jokes about her career being a side note to Beyonce’s stratospheric success, and Rowland has repeatedly dismissed rumours of in-fighting as tabloid fodder. They’re the best of friends, sisters if you will, and to suggest otherwise is merely a callous attempt to drive a wedge between them.
When it comes to the fourth solo release by Rowland, most folks will likely be talking about “Dirty Laundry.” The song finds Rowland openly singing about professional jealousy of friend and former Destiny’s Child mate Beyoncé — whose success she celebrates even as it makes her feel awkward — and, more stunningly, the abusive relationship in which she became entangled. As for putting herself out there, it is brave (and dramatic) stuff. But the track itself, a forgettable slow groove, makes the tune more compelling as confession than music.