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Album Review: Keyshia Cole - 'Woman to Woman'

Polished, Well-Rounded

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

Ever since Mary J. Blige firmly swore off drama in her life and music years ago, R&B singer Keyshia Cole has been the go-to girl for songs about cheating men, back-stabbing girlfriends, suspicious lovers and at least a half-dozen other forms of dysfunction that affect personal relationships. And on her fifth studio album, Woman to Woman, Keyshia ups the ante to the point where the album sounds like a week's worth of episodes of the Jerry Springer and Maury Povich shows rolled into one. Woman to Woman, which was released in the U.S. Nov. 19, 2012, is essentially the story of a woman trying to make her way through the ups and downs of this beautiful struggle we call life. And although not all the songs are gems, this just might be the most polished, well-rounded album of Keyshia's career so far.

Angrily Defiant

One of Keyshia Cole's more significant assets as a performer has always been her ability to belt out done-me-wrong anthems with strength and conviction, and on Woman to Woman, that approach to music serves her well on numerous tunes. There's relationship strife all over the album's 12 songs (15 on the deluxe edition, 17 on the Target bonus edition). The album starts out strongly with "Enough of No Love," a near-cinematic tale of a woman who's heartbroken, yet angrily defiant toward her cheating man. It would be a strong female empowerment anthem if not for the fact that Lil Wayne jumps on the song toward the end, rapping about 'bitches' and 'ho's,' thereby undermining the first two-thirds of the tune. His dragging the song down is almost ironic, considering how he's usually in the position of making mediocre songs better, not good songs worse. Another rapper, Meek Mill, fares better with some witty lyrics on another of the album's better tunes, "Zero," a song where Keyshia gives a quick lesson on why honesty is the best policy, even if you're a bald-faced liar: "You see, it pays to tell the truth, feel so sorry for you, you coulda had it all, too bad you gotta fall, now you leave with nothing, nada," she sings. "You see, it pays to tell the truth."
Emotional dishonesty is an ongoing theme throughout most of the album and is the thread that's woven through such songs as "Missing Me," "Get It Right," "Trust and Believe" and the title track. The title track, which appears halfway through the album's standard edition, is a duet between Keyshia and Ashanti where they portray women who figure out they've been seeing the same man and instead of duking it out, they sit down like rational, intelligent women and piece together all the lies they've been told in order to figure out what's really been going on.

Consistently Good

Although there's much to like about this album, there's also a few disappointing aspects, one of the main ones being "Next Move," which features R&B/Soul heartthrob Robin Thicke. The word 'features' probably is a little generous, however. The song's far from a duet; Robin basically serves as a backup singer on the track, never at any point sharing equal footing with Keyshia vocally. Which is a shame, since the song has a beautiful Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell vibe to it. An artist as talented as Thicke shouldn't have to play a background role on anyone's song, especially when a lesser talented vocalist like Ashanti gets her time to shine.
The only other issue is that the lyrical content and song themes aren't particularly original or groundbreaking. The theme of infidelity and the emotional pain it causes is nothing new and it gets done to death here until the album changes course for the better with the soaring love song "Signature." But despite its flaws, this is definitely one of the more mature and well-rounded R&B albums of 2012. And unlike some of Keyshia's previous efforts, the song quality here is consistently good, with no truly bad songs, making it easily one of the better albums of her career so far.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by Geffen Records. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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