Kelly Rowland finally comes into her own on "Talk A Good Game," her most focused, consistent and honest album to date. Picking up where 2011’s "Here I Am" left off, the singer's new album has an additional layer of honesty and openness courtesy of her most personal song to date, The-Dream-penned, "Dirty Laundry."
Though none of the other cuts go quite as deep as "Dirty Laundry,” the album is still a refreshing hyper-focus on contemporary R&B and features contributions from the hottest producers in the game including Pharrell, Mike Will Made It, Danka, Harmony Samuels, Boi 1da, among others.
Which "Talk A Good Game” tracks are the best? Read on for our track-by-track review.
“Everybody’s somebody’s freak,” Kelly pronounces at the top of the album, with a melody that references Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and a spoken-word monologue toward the end that casts her as a sexy, female Vincent Price (it makes sense in context). If it sounds like it might fit in with Britney Spears’ 2007 “Blackout,” that’s because the track was helmed by that album’s executive producer Nate “Danja” Hills. A fitting table-setter for what is easily Rowland’s most intimate, personal album yet.
2. "Kisses Down Low"
The lead single, produced by Mike Will Made It, is kind of an unofficial sequel to 2011’s “Motivation,” Rowland’s most successful single to date and also her most sexually explicit.
3. "Gone" feat. Wiz Khalifa
Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” lays the groundwork for this snappy Harmony Samuels-produced breakup jam, featuring a giggly guest rap from Wiz Khalifa.
4. "Talk A Good Game" feat. Kevin Cossom
The album’s title track finds Kelly treading carefully around a potential relationship. “I don’t think I can take another broken promise / Why do things the hard way when you can just be honest?” The snaky T-Minus-produced beat and a guest rap from Kevin Cossom lends the otherwise sweet song a street edge, and makes the song a standout.
5. "Down On Love"
Another melodic sample, this time courtesy of The Whispers’ “Rock Steady,” which is referenced on this romantically downtrodden midtempo cut. “We want two different things at two different times / You know how the story go / Easy come easy go,” Rowland sings.
6. "Dirty Laundry"
"Dirty Laundry" is Kelly’s breakthrough. The-Dream helps her tell the brutally true story of the last decade of her life, beginning with her jealousy over Beyoncé’s solo success and ending with an abusive relationship. “Kinda lucky I was in her shadow / Phone call from my sister what’s the matter / She said, 'Oh no / You gotta leave' / I’m on the kitchen floor / He took the keys,” Kelly sings on the second verse.
7. "You Changed" feat. Beyoncé and Michelle Williams
“Ladies, y’all wanna do it again?” Kelly asks her fellow Destiny’s Children at the beginning of the trio’s latest reunion single. Though Kelly takes top billing on the track, Beyonce and Michelle each get their own cathartic verse to go off on a clueless ex. More of an expected jam from the three ladies than January’s Pharrell-produced “Nuclear,” which felt more like a lush album cut than a standalone single.
8. "I Remember"
Having dabbled in dance with David Guetta collabs like “Commander” and “When Love Takes Over,” Kelly Rowland picks up the pace on this tribal-dance track from The Runners. Though it consciously stops short of being a full-on four-on-the-floor banger, "I Remember," has more than enough qualities to satisfy Kelly’s dance fanbase.
9. "Red Wine"
Time to get sexy and funky on this Boi-1da jam, featuring live drums, dreamy synths and a soaring chorus from Kelly. A slinky throwback to 80s funk pop, “Red Wine” is another easy standout cut.
10. "This Is Love"
Looks like romantic happiness is in the cards for Kelly after all, as this celebratory banger finds Kelly rejoicing over a guy who’s "got me goin’ on cloud 9."
11. "Street Life" feat. Pusha T
Kelly gets sassy on this Pharrell-produced ode to the ghetto, “Ooh ‘dere go my baby daddy!” she coos on the intro. Though the lyrics can get a little clunky (“The recession ate me alive / Tryin’ to get where the breeze is nice / So I can breathe”), Pharrell’s brassy production lends the track some much-needed credibility.
12. "Stand In Front Of Me"
One more Pharrell cut to close out the proceedings, and this time it’s a 50s doo-wop inspired ode to finding true love. How do you keep your man, someone asked Kelly not that long ago. “You just do it / Mean it / Prove it,” she sings simply. Don’t be surprised if this song starts showing up at a wedding or two in the near future.