Keyshia Cole - Calling All Hearts (2011)

Keyshia Cole

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What a difference two years can make. When her previous CD, A Different Me, dropped, Keyshia Cole was cleaning house personally and professionally, ending her successful reality show, severing her ties with boyfriend Young Jeezy and distancing herself from the toxicity of her birth mother and sister, Frankie and Neffe. Self-assurance and serenity seemed miles away. But fast-forwarding to the present, thanks to impending marriage and motherhood (with basketball's Daniel "Booby" Gibson and their first-born son), there seems to be a more centered Ms. Cole being heard in her fourth and latest release, Calling All Hearts----one who respects her roots, but doesn't fear blossoming and branching off into new directions.

What a difference two years can make. When her previous CD, A Different Me, dropped, Keyshia Cole was cleaning house personally and professionally, ending her successful reality show, severing her ties with boyfriend Young Jeezy and distancing herself from the toxicity of her birth mother and sister, Frankie and Neffe. Self-assurance and serenity seemed miles away. But fast-forwarding to the present, thanks to impending marriage and motherhood (with basketball's Daniel "Booby" Gibson and their first-born son), there seems to be a more centered Ms. Cole being heard in her fourth and latest release, Calling All Hearts----one who respects her roots, but doesn't fear blossoming and branching off into new directions.

Keyshia, like one of her obvious influences, Mary J. Blige, knows better than to completely get brand-new on the fan base that ensured her success, so for every moment of heartbreak, there are equal parts swag and sweetness. "Tired Of Doing Me," an enjoyable duet with R&B loveman, Tank, finds two formerly selfish solo players ready to commit to something larger than themselves; and "So Impossible," anchored with the expect touches of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, finds Keyshia rendering one of her most effective and subtle performances yet as she breaks down how this love hurt too much to lose, but caused too much pain to keep her there. "What You Do To Me" is an achingly-delivered, 80's-flavored torch ballad about being completely turned out by the one you love, filled with strings and sweet nothings, while its flip-side, "Last Hangover," is a jagged and tangy club track courtesy of Timbaland that represents a different lane for Keyshia, but she navigates the terrain of the breakup anthem with aplomb: "I'll take this bottle to bed, cuz' I'm not trippin, I know I made the right decision/I'ma get this up out my head, feel me, no trouble sleepin', no more teardrops on my sheet set. I won't look at your pictures, remember your number/I'm sleepin' like a baby."

Unfortunately, for every track showcasing her growth, there are others that spin their wheels or screech to a halt altogether: "Better Me," a soaring selection co-penned by Diane Warren, Tank and others, reflects on the woman she was while expressing gratitude at what she's become and closes the CD with positivity,  but some folks may not even make it that far thanks to the craptastic opening number, "I Ain't Thru," which seems to be a flimsy excuse to throw some pejoratives, Auto-Tune and an obligatory Nicki Minaj verse into the mix (yawn). "If I Fall In Love Again" pairs her with Faith Evans and a Notorious B.I.G. sample and is pleasant enough (even though it tries too hard), but on "Long way Down" she can't decide if she wants to tell the dog off or take him back,  so it sounds strident as a result.  

Part of growing as a person means realizing that few things in life are absolutely one way or another, so fans evolving right along with Keyshia will appreciate the nuance that abounds here. For others, it may not be as essential a listen as her first couple of releases, so Keyshia's Calling could be as easy to ignore as it is to acknowledge. Mildly recommended.

By Melody Charles

 

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