If there’s anyone worthy enough of stepping into the credibly-street-yet-classy shoes of the Queen Of Hip-Hop/Soul Mary J Blige and R’n’B royalty Faith Evans – it’s the thoroughly amazing Soul songstress Keyshia Cole, who has decided to unveil something totally non-disappointing. Keyshia’s consistently delivered with each album since her soulful Platinum certified 2005 début ‘The Way It Is‘, which managed to sell over 1.6 million units in the US alone. She followed it up with the biggest hit of her career, 2007’s ‘Just Like You‘ which debuted at # 1 on the Billboard R’n’B Albums Chart and # 2 on the Billboard 200, spawning three # 1 singles on the Billboard R’n’B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart (including my personal fave, an anthem that I’ve used time and again for a break-up that I was going through around the same time – the Missy Elliot and Lil’ Kim assisted ‘Let It Go‘). ‘Just Like You‘ eventually sold over 1.7 million units in the US alone. It was these two albums that drew in Keyshia’s prompt comparisons with Mary and Faith – it wasn’t just Keyshia’s versatile instrument of a voice, it was her songwriting abilities as well – that blended in perfectly with the lush arrangements of the album.
2008’s ‘A Different Me‘ debuted at # 1 on the Billboard R’n’B Albums Chart as well, and sold a whopping 322,000 units in its first week to place itself at # 2 on the Billboard 200, eventually selling over a million copies in the US. With ‘A Different Me‘, Keyshia adopted an edgier sound (as compared to the more soulful cuts on her previous albums), a sound which was also evident (and rather over-powering) in her 4th studio album, 2010’s ‘Calling All Hearts‘. That’s precisely when disaster struck.
Since we’re comparing Keyshia with the iconic Mary J Blige, Keyshia’s ‘Calling All Hearts‘ may be compared to Mary J Blige’s ‘Love & Life‘. Back in 2003, ‘Love & Life‘ was Mary’s follow-up to the most successful album of her career until then – 2001’s classic ‘No More Drama‘. After debuting at # 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, ‘Love & Life‘ sank, irrespective of collaborators like 50 Cents, Jay Z, P. Diddy etc. The reason? The album lacked any Soul whatsoever – the very essence of Mary J Blige’s music. Mary’s all about keeping it real and raw – ‘Love & Life‘ wasn’t anything like her game-changing and genre-bending ‘What’s The 411‘ (1992), ‘My Life ‘(1994), ‘Share My World‘ (1997) or ‘Mary‘ (1999). Of course Mary bounced back (and how) with her 2005 album ‘The Breakthrough‘ – the most successful and critically acclaimed album of her entire career.
Keyshia’s ‘Calling All Hearts‘ followed the same path Mary’s ‘Love And Life‘ did. It debuted at # 9 on the Billboard 200 and then sank without a trace, eventually selling a meager 350,000 units in the US till date – the lowest sales of her entire career. Even the presence of A-List names like Nicki Minaj, Faith Evans and Timbaland could not save the album, and none of the released singles made it to the Billboard Hot 100. Keyshia’s vocals were still on point – they were supremely sublime yet angst-ridden enough to slay, unfortunately the songs seemed to slip away after the initial few listens.
For those bemoaning the loss of an Auto-tune-less R’n’B/Soul/Hip-Hop songstress, fear not! It’s been a 2 year wait, but Keyshia finally seems to have gotten her groove back. The Diva has unveiled the name of her 5th studio album, and it’s poignantly titled ‘Woman To Woman‘ – the title track of which features none other than the flawless Ashanti! Ashanti and Keyshia – THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING Y’ALL! The album also boasts of collaborations with Robin Thicke, Meek Mill and Lil Wayne – who appears on the first single ‘Enough Of No Love‘ – a triumphant return to form and possibly Keyshia’s best effort since anything she released from 2008’s ‘A Different Me‘. Over a grinding bass line, some rather smooth mid-tempo beats, soaring strings and a sass that reminds us why we fell for her in the first place, Keyshia’s return to her old-school roots packs a punch. Vocally, she delivers as always, especially when she laments about a crumbling relationship.
The Benny Boom-directed video for ‘Enough Of No Love‘ premiered recently as well, and I can’t help noticing the similarities in Keyshia and Mary’s style – especially when Keyshia goes blonde in the black dress. And OMG the girl can dance as well?!?! Check out Keyshia’s moves during Lil’ Wayne’s totally unnecessary and obligatory appearance in the clip below –
I’ll most definitely look out for this one, cuz Keyshia seems to be in no mood to play with her comeback. Wigs will be snatched.
‘Enough Of No Love‘ will be released to iTunes on July 10th.