The title of Kelly Rowland’s third studio album is no accident. Years after singing songs like “Soldier” and “Independent Women” as 1/3 of Destiny’s Child and some solo success including the Grammy Award winning smash “When Love Takes Over,” Rowland is officially charting her own path with “Here I Am”. While Rowland claims to know her own worth as evidenced on the ballad “Heaven & Earth,” heavy on self admiration and confidence, also heard on the sensual chart-topping single “Motivation,” “Here I Am” actually leaves listeners wondering just what that worth is.
Led by the fiery declaration “I’m Dat Chick,” in which Rowland thrusts “I tell them keep on talking cause‘ I love the attention,” “Here I Am” packs enough punch to excite listeners for a some time but will likely be drowned out by more pressing and inventive tunes from others. Perhaps it is the buzz behind “Motivation” that raised our expectations, add to that a defining performance at the 2011 BET Awards, but “Here I Am” leaves you wavering between commendation and boredom after a few listens. That is not to say “Here I Am” is an effort filled with mediocrity, it is one that has its timeless songs and others that last for a fleeting moment.
Three tracks that stand out, beyond the already successful “Motivation” and “Commander,” are “Turn It Up,” “Feeling Me Right Now,” and “All of the Night”.
“Turn It Up,” an infectious record that kicks off with Rowland singing “I could tear the whole world down,” fits well with her vocal prowess. While not as much a dance record, like “Commander,” “Turn It Up” goes down smooth as Rowland sings to the former object of her affection who just so happens to be with another woman she could “tell everything”. Apt, “Turn It Up” follows the similarly fluid “Feeling Me Right Now”. Daring, like “Motivation” and “I’m Dat Chick,” this song finds Rowland singing “don’t you leave without my handcuffs, I made some special plans for us tonight”. Handcuffs aren’t the only thing Kelly coos about on this album, which is, if nothing else, way more intense, sexually, than any of her other efforts. “All of the Night,” following the aforementioned in order, plays heavily to that end opening with the line “In the middle of the bedroom, kitchen or the hallway, just give me a little legroom and a little bit of foreplay”.
If the sex-driven songs are not your thing, Kelly does take a moment to recognize relationships, at least her man in particular. Drafting fellow Houston-native Lil Playy, Rowland attempts to admonish the love of a “Work It Man” who “ain’t scared” to carry her baggage. That all goes south for the object of her affection on “Heaven & Earth,” a strong ballad (one of few on this album), as she cries out “no more feeling sorry for myself cause I know my worth… because I know I deserve heaven and earth,’ kicking him to the curb.
While Kelly spends much of this album playing with radio friendly R&B/Urban Pop, sans “Lay It On Me,” she revisits the music that earned her much solo success in recent years — dance — in the final few minutes of “Here I Am”. Led by the chart-topping single “Commander,” Rowland picks up where she left off with “When Love Takes Over” on songs like the stomp worthy “Down For Whatever” followed by the bonus track “Each Other,” an equally infectious record perfect for clubs.
Overall, Kelly Rowland deserves praise for taking a chance with this album, arguably her best effort to date. While it lacks the punch necessary to make it a smash, it is a worthy upgrade that could lead to greater solo success. After all, this is “Here I Am” not “All I Have”. If you must make a few selections, listen to “Turn It Up,” “Feelin’ Me Right Now,” “Lay It On Me,” “Motivation,” “Down For Whatever” and “All of the Night”.