11:11 Reset (released October 20, 2017)
If anyone needs a reset, it’s my girl Keyshia Cole.
Even if you’ve been a casual observer of R&B for the past decade or so, it’s a safe bet that you know Keyshia’s career arch: A head-turning debut and an even better sophomore release had her name being mentioned in the same breath as Mary J. Blige. But reality TV and personal problems led to some very inconsistent follow-ups, despite the occasional bright spot here and there. These days, her name is more likely to be brought up in Twitter memes than mentioned among the best singers of her generation.
Keyshia’s ready to change to conversation.
11:11 Reset, Keyshia’s seventh solo release, aims to be a new start – she’s on a new label, she’s working with new collaborators, she has a new focus and, honestly, seem to flaunt a newfound confidence too.
That’s pretty apparent in the self-affirmation intro and outro tracks “Cole World.”
…Um… hope she cleared that name with J. Cole first.
Anyway, DJ Khaled (on the former) and Too Short (on the latter) spit platitudes of affirmation, which nicely segues into the album’s first proper track, “Unbothered”: “I’m better than I ever been … I hate it for you haters, cuz I don’t plan on settling.” It’s more than a message for Twitter trolls – it’s a personal mission statement to keep her pushing forward: “I don’t care what you thinkin’/cuz I think I’m flawless.”
The singles “You” and “Incapable” are classic Keyshia, and while they don’t reach the heights of more well-known tracks like “Let It Go” and “I Remember,” the spirt is still there. “You” is filled with Keyshia’s trademark barbs – especially when she threatens to “empty out the closet like a full clip,” along with a strong verse from Remy Ma. Even French Montana keeps from embarrassing himself this time around and delivers a couple of quotables (“comin’ with those same lines like Trump’s wife”). Too bad the same can’t be said for Young Thug , who sucks all the fun out of “Act Right” with his aggravating ad-libs.
The entire album isn’t one big draggin’ session, thankfully. The aforementioned “Incapable” is a tender but tough dismissal of a former love. “Vault” takes Keyshia out of her comfort zone a bit – she’s backed by little more than acoustics here, proving you can make an “atmospheric” track without sacrificing vocals.
“Best Friend” exudes with the same emotion that has fueled some of Keyshia’s best work, as well as the track fittingly called, well, “Emotional.” It lives up to its name with heavy percussions driving home the song’s message.
At just 11 tracks – nine if you exclude the intro/outros – there’s not much room for error here. Thankfully, besides the underwhelming 2pac homage “Ride,” which features solid production but little else, 11:11 Reset is a surprisingly consistent listen. There is certainly an air of repetition here – even though I love “Right Time,” it feels like we’ve heard variations of it on every one of her previous albums. Still, it’s a solid return to form for an artist looking to find herself.
Starting back at square one sounds pretty good.
Best tracks: “Incapable,” “Best Friend,” “Right Time”
4 stars out of 5