Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Curious Case of Kelendria Trene Rowland

Kelly Rowland is one of the more interesting characters in the current music landscape. She is, of course, one of the founding (and surviving) members of Destiny's Child: one of the most successful female groups of all time. The most important thing about Destiny's Child in pop culture is often thought of as the solo debut of Beyonce, who has gone on to be one of the biggest superstars of our generation before she has even hit the age of 30. With someone in the group possessing such a high level of charisma and fame, it is easy for most people to forget the other members of DC.

However, the other members have gone on to be quite amazing artists themselves. Michelle Williams has released a few mildly successful singles/albums (including the stunning We Break the Dawn) as well as tried her hand at musical theater (she played Roxie in the London production of Chicago). LeToya Luckett, one of the famed ejected members of Destiny's Child original lineup, has come into her own as a quite able R&B singer, and had a platinum selling debut album and a critically lauded follow-up.

Despite these impressive showings, it is Kelly Rowland who has ventured out to become the most intriguing alumni of Destiny's Child...perhaps ever more so than Queen B. Now, I cannot claim to be one of Kelly's biggest fans during her solo career...in fact I am only vaguely familiar with her first two albums. However, she has had an interesting way of popping up with a smash hit, right before fading back into obscurity. Her debut single was the worldwide smash Dilemma ft. Nelly, and her sophomore album had the hot-as-fire singles Like This ft Eve and Work. However, she always seemed to be bubbling under the radar...never catapulting into someone that many people anticipated music from. In 2009, Kelly left the management of Beyonce's father, Matthew Knowles in order to pursure other opportunities (preferably good ones that didn't get snatched up for Beyonce first.) Then came David Guetta...

The first major move that Kelly made was to feature on Guetta's "When Love Takes Over." The song went #1 all over the world, and Kelly was reborn for the first time as a dance diva to be reckoned with. She was one of the first major stars to have a song in this genre be successful before the recent electro-pop explosion (in fact, it was Kelly who gave Usher the advice to get into dance music!). One of the best things about the song is that it showed off the powerful, high-octane voice that Kelly seemed to have been hiding for years. The world seemed to take notice of this single more than her past ones as it showed how truly strong a performer Kelly Rowland could be.

The decisions made since this stroke of luck have been where things have gotten a bit hairy. She signed with Universal for a new record deal, but either the label has been managing her badly or she can't decide what type of artist she wants to be. She is clearly still rooted in her R&B background, but also is not quite ignoring the idea of worldwide success with dance music. This conflict has produced a confusing series of "lead singles" (read as: flops) that have made new fans start to doubt whether Kelly is the disco queen she made herself out to be. Dance singles like the HUGE gay anthem "Commander" and the lesser, more derivative "Forever and a Day" won over some fans in Europe but did very little to impact the US. Meanwhile, her R&B singles "Rose Colored Glasses" and "Grown Woman" had mediocre success, and have since faded away. While she has kept busy with features on others' albums such as Nelly, Tinie Tempah and Alex Gaudino...the continual single misfires and lack of news about any full-length album has even those still rooting for her quite confused.

Luckily, in the past couple of months, she has taken to speaking more about the album and apologizing for the long delay, claiming that she has been working hard to make sure that when her third album DOES come out...that it is perfect. Which brings us to the present...

She is finally putting her all into her new single, Motivation, with now-exonerated feature creature Lil Wayne. It is quite a good song...definitely not a full-on smash but could do work on the R&B charts and is already getting attention for the video she has filmed. It is a breathtakingly sexy, swag-filled video that fits the song quite nicely.

Anyone else's jungle fever rising?! When she premiered the video on 106 & Park yesterday, she had this to say about her album:
“It actually starts with ‘Motivation,’ which is of course letting in on that sensual side,” Kelly said. “But the album tells the story of everything else—strength and character…friendship. It’s fantastic. I can’t wait till everybody hears the album towards the end of the summer.”
And this is what I wanted to do this post for...she is finally putting in the time to put out this fabled third album, is focusing on a lead single and promoting it...and is now saying she isn't releasing the album for another 4 months? It is possible she will be releasing multiple singles over the next few months to gain momentum...but I am worried that she will once again get buzz for a single, and then lose it by the time the album is reading to come out! If her album is pushed back once more...I have very little faith she will get yet another chance.

My advice, Kelly? Release a pre-album EP of the different sounds and songs you have attempted over the last couple of years. Give fans the chance to purchase them all together and remind everyone of what you have done. Put out at least 3 singles before the album comes out, and make sure that each of them are promoted properly and do not flop. Release an album full of club bangers of both the R&B and dance variety, as well as the slower, sexy jams you love, but get an executive producer who can tie them all together and make a cohesive, stunner of an album. I have all of the faith in the world in you...because despite your curious state, you do indeed belong at the top of the charts with your Destiny's sisters.

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