Keyshia Cole: Calling All Hearts

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Posted February 20, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Mixbag of weary heartbroken lore and the occasional sparkly uptempo decorate R&B vixen’s fourth LP


Certain missteps have plagued Keyshia Cole’s progress as a certifiable R&B singer. Aside from the unfortunate live performance blunders, Cole – who leans on influences like Mary J. Blige and Brandy – has been dubbed an ostentatious studio lab rat and seems to produce satisfactory results when under the provisional care of a producer. Certainly her reality-TV show has giving her some extra playtime, but Cole’s best to date can be summed up in one song, the urban AC “I Remember.” Now on her fourth record, Keyshia is still trying to find her place of prominence in a troublesome R&B market. Over-saturation of thug love and mad black woman angst has made a comfortable way for veteran stars to take all the shine using their retro outfits or their old school-meets-new school approach. Calling All Heartsisn’t entirely beefed up with revenge and anger, more of a mix bag of emotions and up-and-down PMS. “I Ain’t Thru” is a Mary J. Blige inspired tune with light club fare. Cole’s performance is good, but is quickly upstaged by guest Nicki Minaj – a woman much more comfortable in her own skin. She sings about wisdom on melancholy melodies (“Long Way Down”), falls into borderline suicide territory (“Tired Of Doing Me”) and somehow emerges from depression when belting “I wouldn’t let the impossible hold me back from moving on with my life” on “So Impossible.” Even with Faith Evans guesting, “If I Fall In Love Again” – using an Isaac Hayes’ sample taken from Biggie Smalls’ swagger – never takes flight like it should due to the lack of a strong chorus. Although the song incorporates woman-to-woman therapy, the open dialogue focuses heavily on past mistakes while the robust grooves call for something bigger. It really isn’t until she reaches the gospel ballad “Thank You” when her optimism finally becomes the backbone for her survival.

Still all the mistakes that define Calling All Hearts – burdensome overloads and the solemnness ballads with no end – isn’t all that unbearable and it doesn’t nullify the potential imported here. She’s surrounded by wholesome production throughout, but the contributions provided by Chink Santana stand out as Cole’s brightest moments. “What You Do To Me” places Cole in front of a masterful live band, echoing the fierceness of Mint Condition while using bright piano lines and hearty percussion. Just as important, the breezy “Take Me Away” gives the album an important mood changer, as she gleams with joy while singing, “I love my baby…wanna sing a new hit for the radio.”

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 21 December 2010
  • Label: Geffen/Interscope
  • Producers: Timbaland, The ARE, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Dontae Winslow, Chink Santana, Song Dynasty, Big WY, Justa Beast, Tweek Beats, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Toxic N8, Eddie & KC Hustle
  • Spin This: “I Ain’t Thru,” “What You Do To Me”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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