Monday, July 25, 2011

Kelly Rowland - Here I Am (U.S. Deluxe Edition)

So simple, yet so beautiful. Good choice, Kelly, I really like the cover for this!
tl;dr (Too Long; Didn't Read) version—After a slight mishap with her previous album, Ms. Kelly Rowland is back in the house! Although the international version is supposed to be getting all of the dance-friendly hits, the U.S. edition of Here I Am does not disappoint. She definitely stepped her game up and the other artists out there should be on guard. It might not be my all-time favorite album of 2011, but it is a solid "Dance-Pop&B" mix, and I expect it to do well on the charts.

I must say, I am a tad irritated that some of Kelly's previous singles—specifically "Forever and a Day", "Rose Colored Glasses", and "Grown Woman"—did not make the final tracklisting for the U.S. edition. I understand that these songs did not do too well on the charts, but they still could have been included on the album. (Although from what I can tell, these songs will be included on the more dance-friendly international edition of the album later this year. I need to live in a European country, the U.S. is always getting shafted!) Which leads me to my next question—why weren't these songs successful in the first place? I honestly thought that at least one of them (most likely "Glasses") would've done a good job, but I was obviously wrong. And the fact that "Commander" was only a moderate hit in the States completely baffles me.

But I digress.

After about a year of push backs, Here I Am is, well, finally here! Despite my mini rant, I am very pleased with this album. Kelly's last effort, Ms. Kelly, was unfortunately a commercial failure, so to see her follow up with a stronger and better album makes me all happy inside!

She starts the album off with the beat-heavy "I'm Dat Chick". While not the best song on the album in my opinion, this Tricky Stewart production is so catchy and sassy that you will probably find yourself quoting some of the lyrics when you're feeling especially confident about yourself: "Why we looking good from our heads to our toes/ Who don't need a compliment, because she knows/ She don't need a mirror, she can see, see, see~". Kelly does a solid job with this album opener, and "Chick" helps to set the "Dance-Pop&B" pace for the rest of the album.

Another up-tempo track on the album worth mentioning is "Lay it on Me". This song is currently undergoing the single treatment, as it is set to be released as the second official single in the U.S. From the air horns at the beginning ('cause every song is better with some air horns!) to the featured Big Sean vocals, "On Me" is a little formulaic in its sound, but should nonetheless be a summer hit and hopefully it'll be well-received by everyone. And I am beyond ecstatic that Kelly is releasing a more up-tempo song after the R&B slow jam "Motivation", the first official U.S. single. While it's nice to see that R&B is still alive and kicking it, I need me some dance jams!

Speaking of the slower songs on the album, there are some good ones on Here I Am if that's the type of sound you prefer. "Keep it Between Us" is such a beautiful song on the album and I like it a lot. Co-penned by Ms. Kelly herself, the lyrics show a more personal side to the singer compared to the other tracks on the album: "Just a plain ol' girl, I don't need nothin'/ They say I got it all, but they don't know that all is you, is you/ So don't give your love away~". The combination of simple lyrics and Rowland's beautiful voice helps to make this song a standout on the album.

And of course the Lil Wayne-featured "Motivation" makes an appearance on the tracklisting. While I can understand why this song has been such a hit, for some reason I only find it okay at best. It's one of those songs where if I heard it playing on the radio I wouldn't necessarily change the channel; but at the same time, I don't actively look for it on my iPod. I love Lil Wayne's verse, though, and I will be quoting him a lot. ("I turn that thing into a rainforest/ Rain on my head, call that brainstorming~"? YES!!!)

"Grown Woman", here's to hoping that you and the rest of your axed sister songs will be on the international version of Here I Am. A fan can dream, right?
Other gems on the album include the Rodney Jerkins-produced "Turn it Up". I like "Darkchild" Jerkins's ability to seamlessly combine hip-hop beats with dance music (see: "Feedback" by Janet Jackson and "Telephone" by Lady Gaga), and "Turn it Up" does not disappoint in that area at all. Another standout track is the not-exactly-first-single "Commander", produced by the ever-popular David Guetta. This song is an dance-pop lover's dream, and I just love screaming the chorus at the top of my lungs! And you know I have the love the RedOne-produced "Down for Whatever". While not RedOne's most creative work, he knows how you get you bumping and shaking your butt.

The deluxe edition songs are okay if you are willing to go the extra mile, but you are not missing out on too much. "Heaven & Earth" unfortunately has "bonus track syndrome", and it really should've been a part of the main tracklisting. I do recommend getting this song at the very least, if you can. The Urban Remix for "Commander" is a bit underwhelming (especially Nelly's added vocals), but the Rebel Rock Remix for "Motivation" gives the song a necessary speed-up for those who are looking for a dance version. ("Each Other" is completely passable; don't even worry about it.)

Overall, I am really digging Here I Am! I have been waiting for this album release for some time now, and it did not disappoint at all. I am more excited about the international version of this album, however, and I have a feeling I am going to like that one more than this U.S. edition. Regardless, I definitely think you should pick this one up! I'm leaving you with the official lyric video for "Lay it on Me" and the official videos for "Commander" and "Motivation". Enjoy!

"Lay it on Me" Official Lyric Video

"Commander" Official Music Video

"Motivation" Official Music Video

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