An album of two halves – even if its better one is something of a grab-bag of club cuts.
Nick Levine 2011
No, she's not Beyoncé. Then again, her BFF and former bandmate has the market cornered when it comes to Glasto-stealing, Obama-charming, baby-bump-baring RnB divas. But even if these days her pop career seems to proceed on a single-by-single basis, Kelly Rowland hasn't had a bad run since Destiny's Child disbanded. In fact, she's racked up eight UK top 10 hits either on her lonesome or as a pretty flashy featured artist. And if there must be talent show judges with catchphrases, K-Ro and "put it down" are infinitely preferable to Alexandra Burke's recent attempt to make "OK dot com" happen.
Sadly, much of Here I Am lacks the sass that Rowland displays on The X Factor. The album's first half is a succession of synthy mid-tempo tracks helmed by the sort of expensive RnB producers whose studio doors are always open: Christopher ‘Tricky’ Stewart, Rico Love, Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins. Admittedly, some of it is pretty decent – particularly the Lil Wayne-assisted Motivation and the Rihanna-aping I'm Dat Chick – but personality is lacking.
Thankfully, like a football team given a half-time ear-bashing by the guv'nor, Here I Am steps up in the second half. It's all a bit scrappy though, as this 17-song ‘International Edition’ of the album grabs pretty much whatever it can to maximise its appeal. Rowland's summer house hit, What a Feeling? Check. The Diplo remix of Motivation? Check. A couple of David Guetta collaborations? Check – and who cares that When Love Takes Over is now two-and-a-half years old?
Inevitably, this turns Here I Am into a bit of a grab-bag in its latter stages, but it's a grab-bag that only Tulisa Contostavlos could claim not to find some pleasure in. Clubbier cuts like Forever and a Day and current single Down for Whatever suggest that Rowland's future could lie as a kind of dance diva with street cred. If she's quick, she can crack on while B's under doctor's orders to keep her feet up.