Album Review: Kelly Price, Kelly

Kelly Price

Kelly (released May 3, 2011)

Some of you have been looking to the heavens for years now, awaiting the day Dr. Dre’s Detox falls into your lap.

I’ve already had my Detox moment. Kelly is here.

It’s been five years since Kelly Price’s last album, the shockingly mediocre gospel album This Is Who I Am; eight years since her last R&B release, the criminally overlooked Priceless; and 13 years since she released my FAVORITE ALBUM EVA, Soul Of A Woman.

One thing’s for sure, she may have been under the radar, but she certainly didn’t lose her pipes during the layoff. Longtime Kelly fans will notice that she sings in a slightly higher key these days but it’s not really a detriment. Every track on the album is propelled by her passionate performances. Her fire is still burning.

Take the first single, “Tired”: “I’m tired of all the games and lies/I’m tired of the phony alibis/I’m tired of praying that it works/I’m even tired of going to church.” Kelly belts out the song with such unbridled passion that it makes your soul quake. When it’s done, all you can do is exhale – or torch your no-good mate’s property. Either way, that pyromaniac Angela Bassett would be proud.

Those who might be turned off by Kelly’s vocal histrionics might prefer “The Rain,” a ballad that shows her amazing range without going overboard.

Kelly’s bread and butter is ballads, but give her an uptempo track and she can keep the party moving. She’s right at home on “And You Don’t Stop” and “Speechless,” sounding like a disco diva from a bygone era.

No one can contest Kelly’s impeccable voice. In fact, I contend that she’s the best R&B vocalist to emerge in the past decade.  But even though Kelly sounds absolutely amazing, the album has one major drawback. Many of the album’s songs are a bit, err, too ethnic.

That’s the politically correct way of saying too ghetto.

No, “Not My Daddy” is not the latest theme song for Maury Povich’s show. But what is supposed to be a plea for a stronger relationship turns silly thanks to trite lyrics straight out of a BET Blackbuster film: “You’re not my daddy you’re my man/And I think it’s time you understand…I’m not your mama I’m your girl…” The message is there, it’s just hard to take it seriously. “Himaholic” is even worse, as Kelly falls head over heels and  becomes “addicted” to her lover (Himaholic = alcoholic, ugh).

The sloppy songwriting is annoying but you cannot overlook Kelly’s amazing vocals. In fact, Kelly’s performances on those two tracks elevate them, making them the album’s best. Kelly’s vocals are so strong, so passionate that you almost forget how ridiculous her made-up words sound. Almost. By the time Kelly starts singing about her man being a “Lil Sumn-Sumn” on the side, you’ll wonder if Tyler Perry is writing her material.

Kelly doesn’t reinvent the wheel. The content is typical R&B fare: the highs and lows of love. The album’s production doesn’t feel as fresh and current as recent releases from artists like Miguel and Marsha Ambrosius, which means the younger set won’t be impressed. And if hyperactive vocals turn you off, you might want to look elsewhere. This is a typical Kelly Price album – which is great news for longtime fans.

No surprises here, Kelly delivers again. It was worth the wait.

Best tracks: “Himaholic,” “Not My Daddy,” “And You Don’t Stop”

4 stars out of 5


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