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If the Destiny’s Child brand were the Brady Bunch, Kelly Rowland would be non-whining Jan. You know. The proverbial middle child, doing her best to establish her own identity apart from her sisters, seemingly to no avail. Kelly’s always lived in the shadow of the group’s Marsha, (and we all know who that is) although she’s gorgeous in her own right, and her talent level is through the roof.  Constant comparison to another artist throughout the course of your career can be, and has been detrimental, but thankfully, Kelly’s seen the light and is now ready to step into her own.

With the success of the lead single Motivation (7 straight weeks atop the Billboard R&B Charts) Here I Am” is poised to be Kelly’s most successful solo project to date. A change in both management and label has proven to be a positive for her, although fans are still concerned about the low level of promotion that’s lead up to the release of the project. These concerns might be valid, but apparently Team Kelly’s focus is not first week sales, but rather a more long term approach, and quality content.

With that being said, “Here I Am” finds some semblance of balance where Kelly once had sonic identity issues. She created a huge international audience with the release of several world-wide number one dance singles (and subsequent GRAMMY’s) but never wanted to neglect her urban roots. Without a doubt, this is a fun, club record, that provides a little something for everyone. There are a couple of crossover ready records, several of urban bass-heavy tracks, and even a couple of straight dance records, (including last year’s international number one record Commander.)

This album could easily be renamed “Here I Am: Do You See Me? I’m Grown & Sexy” without a hitch, because that’s the recurring theme. I’m not really sure if that’s a negative or a positive yet, but for now, it seems to be working for Kelly, so I’ll let it ride.

The opening track, aptly titled I’m Dat Chick sets the tone for the entire album. While a previous version of this record leaked over a year ago, the finished version has proven to be one of the more stand-out records on the project. The lyrics make this a ladies anthem. For example:

“And I’m not cocky I just love myself/ ‘cuz he can’t buy a ring I can’t buy myself/I’m putting on a show so you can check me out/This chick knows she’s cute so what you talkin’ about?”

In all honesty, this is my secondary “favorite track” on the album, because it makes you feel like you’re…”dat chick.” Hey, everyone needs to be reminded that they are indeed “the ish” from time to time. If you don’t have the confidence in yourself, who will?

Lay It On Me, which is set to be the next single, features a verse from Detroit native Big Sean. Honestly, Big Sean’s style is an acquired taste (I’m not sure that I’ve grown into it yet), but in this case, his sing-songy, basic nursery rhyme delivery works well against the back It fits right in with the running “sexy” theme that covers the entire album. Produced by Hit Boy, this song could easily find it’s way on to your hometown Top 40 station. Take a listen below:

Other stand out tracks include Feeling Me Right Now which I lovingly refer to as the 2011 Oops (Oh My) [ see Tweet] and the sexy All of The Night, which features Rico Love (who also produced the track.)

Above all of the others, the track that’s gotten more replays than any other in my iTunes is Keep It Between Us… It’s probably one of the smoothest, most intimately sexy tracks on the album, and coincidentally is Kelly’s favorite as well. Everyone likes a good love song, and this one is perfect for a close dance with your boo. Play it below.

Conclusively, this is a SOLID album. Is it a classic? No. But is it a really good project? Yes. With the right tour and a promo, this album could finally propel Kelly Rowland into the solo spotlight she deserves. The final verdict: Cop it.

4/5 STARS

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