Calling All Hearts (Deluxe Edition) (released Dec. 21, 2010)
It might be hard to believe, but not long ago I was a pretty big Keyshia Cole supporter. I really enjoyed her 2005 debut The Way It Is (minus that ear-shattering song “Love” that made my skin crawl) and her sophomore album, Just Like You, was even better. She was my pick to carry Mary J. Blige’s torch into the next decade. Don’t get me wrong, KC has many flaws as an artist but much like Mary J. her imperfections and raw vocal power gave her an edge. Her struggles became her story.
But in recent years she was overshadowed by her ridiculous reality show family members and the quality of her work floundered. Coincidence? I doubt it.
Despite hearing her new single weeks ago, I had no idea Keyshia’s fourth album, Calling All Hearts, was released until I saw it in Target as I hunted unsuccessfully for Ghostface Killah’s new album. Silly me for thinking Ghostface would be sold by retailers.
It’s a shame the album suffered from such poor promotion, because Calling All Hearts steers Keyshia back in the right direction.
The first single “I Ain’t Thru” is a lame attempt to mimic the success of 2007’s “Let It Go,” but the second single, “Long Way Down” sets things straight. Keyshia is at her best when she can belt emotion and “Long Way Down” lets her shine. “Tired of Doing Me,” a duet with Tank, and “So Impossible” sparkle in similar fashion.
KC teams up with Faith Evans for “If I Fall In Love Again,” which sounds like the illegitimate child of Biggie’s “Warning” and Shai’s “If I Ever Fall In Love.” It’s odd, but works.
The biggest surprise is “Love Hangover” – Timbaland emerges from his musical exile to concoct one of his signature bass-heavy, futuristic bangers. We were due for one of these.
Keyshia overflows with emotion on the album, which makes her her own worst enemy. The album’s biggest setback is poor writing. I’m not talking about incomprehensible, Waka Flocka-level babbling – many songs simply sound like diary entries, which is very cumbersome at times.
A perfect example is “Sometimes”: “Funny how you may never know the true effect/you may have on somebody else watching your life/In your eyes they may see dreams/Hopes and aspirations that might help the ones/who carried and fight their fight.” Those lines may be heartfelt but they make VERY awkward lyrics.
The bonus tracks “Confused in Love” and “Two Sides to Every Story” really suffer from clunky writing. In fact, just skip the Deluxe Edition of the album, the added songs should have been left on the cutting room floor.
The album also lacks a standout track to put it over the top. There’s no “Let it Go,” no “Trust,” no “Love” (not that we need another “Love”…). It’s a solid collection, but lacks a true gem.
Calling All Hearts is Keyshia’s turning point. She’s engaged, a new mom, and finally escaping Frankie and Neffie’s large, ghetto shadow. She’s heading down the right path again, with all her imperfections in tow.
But it’s OK, it’s her story.
Best tracks: “Long Way Down,” “Tired of Doing Me,” “Last Hangover”
3.5 stars out of 5