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KEYSHIA COLE: The Way It Is

 

For over a year now, the name Keyshia Cole has been circling the industry with much ambiguity surrounding it.  While her first single, “I Changed My Mind” managed to achieve radio and video success, it failed to overshadow the constant rotation of Alicia Keys and Beyoncé.  So, with her album slated for release June 21, is her past history a reflection of her future?

 

The Way It Is starts out strong with “(I Just Want It) To Be Over.”  Blessed with production from Krucial Keys, the production arm of Alicia Keys, the quality comes to no surprise.  The subject matter of a jaded lover is not new, but the pain and rawness of her voice mixed with just the right blend of horns and drums creates a sound that R&B has lacked from new talent in years. Following suit is the Kanye West produced first single, “I Changed My Mind.”  The best thing about this track is that the vocals overshadow the rather understated West production - a trait that unfortunately is too rare among his catalog.  Other standouts include “Love, I Thought You Had My Back” and “I Should Have Cheated” which finally finds the jaded songstress contemplating revenge: "As much as you accuse me of cheating, I might as well had..."  Borrowing “Sounds Like A Love Song” from Bobby Glenn, "You’ve Changed” comes across as a response to Jay-Z’s “Song Cry”: “He wasn’t taking care of home/ Left me there alone/ What’s a girl to do when she’s feeling in the mood.”  Finally, the album wraps just as strong as it opened with the Luther Vandross sampled “Never” also featured on the Barbershop 2 soundtrack. 

 

While The Way It Is already proves to be a strong album based on the aforementioned cuts, it’s not without faults.  Even Keyshia’s voice can’t save the less than stellar production of “Down and Dirty.”  The off-kilter, random sounds of the track prove to extremely distracting from her voice.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Superstar” featuring Metro City may pass the ear test, but the lyrics appear amateur at best.

 

Despite the missteps, Keyshia is the closet thing to Mary J. Blige to emerge in years.  She provides listeners with that passion and rawness that a Mariah or Beyoncé could never deliver no matter how beautiful their voices.  Even appearance wise, she has that not-quite-perfected ghetto-fabulous style that Mary has just recently evolved into chic.

 

For a debut, The Way It Is is far more than solid.  The album delivers many more gems than the first single, “I Changed My Mind,” would lead you to believe.  It’s one of the few albums I’ve been excited about in months.  It’s a must buy. 



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