Here I Am
09:00AM ET August 5th, 2011
Contributor: DeAndre Rozan
A Rocky Williform Company
It may seem like an overstatement to call Here I Am, the third album by R&B star Kelly Rowland, a 'comeback' album--but its pretty close to an accurate description given the pop music landscape in 2011. Rowland hadn't had a smash hit since her first Nelly-assisted single "Dilemma" from her debut solo album Simply Deep, which was released way back in 2002. Her sophomore album, Ms. Kelly, was a flop and lead to her being dropped from her label and subsequently firing her manager, Matthew Knowles. She experienced a resurgence overseas, charting some dance hits in 2010 that did little to restore her commercial viability in the U.S. So it was easy to assume that, at this point, Kelly Rowland's career was about as hot as Kelly Price's.
But that was before "Motivation" hit the airwaves and instantly returned the former Destiny's Child star to prominence. And that much-needed hit was just the career shot-in-the-arm that Rowland needed--setting the stage for Here I Am. Rowland has never had the sheer star power that her former bandmate Beyonce seems to exude, but she's an industry veteran that knows her way around the studio. Here I Am is an assured album that shines more than it sags and features some of Rowland's most inspired work as of yet.
Rowland balances her newfound desire to be 'the modern Donna Summer' and her tried-and-true urban pop-meets-light-hip hop approach on the album, with “Down for Whatever,” surpassing her previous dance hit "Commander" (also included here) as Rowland's most defiantly Eurodance moment on the record. Produced by RedOne and Jimmy Joker, "...Whatever" reveals that Rowland's excursion into hardcore dance music wasn't just a brief interlude--she actually sounds as assured and confident in that genre as she does doing anything else.
"Lay It On Me" is Rowland in full sex-kitten mode--because of course, any female pop singer that wants to be taken seriously has to get a little risque--and benefits from a Big Sean guest verse.
Here I Am, for all of its eclecticism, isn't a groundbreaking record, in the least. The album benefits from knowing what works best for Rowland. Coming after the sometimes ham-fisted sincerity of Simply Deep and the pseudo-autobiographical Ms. Kelly, this is precisely the album Kelly Rowland needed to make at this point in her career.
So while it may not be earth-shattering, Here I Am is a thoroughly enjoyable album that shows an artist that's been through the ups and downs of the music industry that has also come out of those trials much more confident and complete. And for Kelly Rowland, that is a definite triumph.