Favorites: Gone, Down on Love, You’ve Changed, Street Life, #1
Dislikes: Sky Walker
Overall: Surprisingly good. Great vocal, decent lyrics, soothing music.
After the previous Here I Am and the sexed up 1st singles for the new Talk a Good Game, I was prepared to hear another dense, sex-a-palooza of an album from Kelly Rowland. Then, when I heard “Gone” (featuring Wiz Khalifa) & the deeply personal “Dirty Laundry,” I had hope for a brighter day and crossed my fingers as I sat down to listen to Game in full for the first time. To my relief, the record was surprisingly good and is the strongest in her collection, next to 2007’s Ms. Kelly. This time, the amounts of lustful tracks are sparse and any innuendos are matched with a little more romanticism or good musical production, providing dimension. The production for “Freak” is so seductive & catchy (Rowland is one of the few artists that EDM fits on like a glove), you’re not paying attention to its rated R content. I’m also pretty sure “Freak” is a sample; maybe Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder, but I didn’t see any information indicating so. The track is, however, identical to Jamie Foxx’s forgotten single “Best Night of My Life.” I loathe track recycling, but I can see why Nate “Danja” Hills didn’t want to let that one go. Ironically, the most graphic song is so because of expletives, not sexual content. “Sky Walker” unnecessarily includes every major curse word except “ass.” Sometimes, I think Rowland makes too much of a hard-pressed effort to come off “hard” and depart from her former “clean-cut” Destiny’s Child image (I found that image to be positive and constructive, but what do I know?), but back to how Talk a Good Game sounds musically, there are pluses and minuses. It’s has a unified, smooth and relaxed tone with enough percussion to keep things from being sleepy, but there’s a very similar pattern between songs. Also, most of the production is too simple; it comes off like a hip-hop beat sample kit that you would install on a keyboard. Leave it up to Pharrell to bring some freshness with the jumpy “Street Life” (the most exciting track) and the Motown-inspired “Stand in Front of Me” (although “Stand’s” writing is terrible). Other unordinary musical moments can be found on the 80’s inspired “Red Wine” & “This is Love.” “You’ve Changed” gives me delicious Destiny Fulfilled taste and is 200 times better than the Destiny Child February 2013 reunion that was “Nuclear.”
As for the writing, we get to hear what kind of skills Rowland has in that department, as she co-wrote majority of the material. How did she do? Not bad. On the first half of the album, there’s angsty and interesting concept design to the usual topic of sucky relationships that makes Talk a Good Game a great “kick him to the curb” soundtrack. The second and more lovey-dovey half isn’t as strong, funnily. The lyrics there are over-simplified, fragmented or scattered. They lack a certain fullness and structure that would unveil a story. You know what the songs are generally discussing and can categorize them as “about love,” but what about love specifically? Why is the love or the person you’re with so great? Detail is missing. Vocally, Rowland remains primarily in the heart of her range, and thanks to the relaxed energy of the music, her voice is the star of the show. She sings in a very pronounced way that’s full of attitude. For every weakness on this album, there’s a favoring quality. Rowland’s sturdy vocal performance with efficient lyrics in the first half and soothing tunes in the second, there isn’t just “talking a good game,” she’s living it.