July 3, 2007
Kelly Rowland’s solo career has seen many stages. For most, her return with 2007’s “Like This” was the first solo move she had made in the nearly five years following the release of her debut album. However, true fans knew better. She had a busy few years, but her 2007 return was significant for many reasons. Most notably, it was significant because she solidified her solo sound: a little R&B, a little pop, a little dance, and a little hip-hop.
Ms. Kelly, from 2002 to 2006
In 2002, Destiny’s Child finished up their world tour. That summer, she had a smash hit #1 song with Nelly and their ubiquitous “Dilemma.” In the fall, she released her debut solo album, Simply Deep. Kelly snagged her first film role in 2003’s Freddy Vs. Jason and continued promoting Simply Deep, embarking on a solo European tour. The next year, Destiny’s Child reunited for their final album, Destiny Fulfilled, for which they toured the world in 2005. She also scored another Top 20 hit with Trina, on their collaboration “Here We Go, released in late 2005.
All the while, Kelly had been in the studio working on her sophomore album, of which fans got their first glimpse with the release of the film The Seat Filler. Released on DVD in early 2006, The Seat Filler featured several new recordings by Rowland – for the film. However, there was one more song, “Flashback,” that played in the credits. “Flashback” was billed as an all-new Kelly song, intended for her next album. It was also included on the Destiny’s Child Live In Atlanta DVD release that same month.
My Story: Kelly Rowland
She had a title, and even a first single, but things did not go as planned. Originally, the album was titled My Story: Kelly Rowland, with a release date slated for spring and eventually July 2006. The lead single was slated to be “Gotsta Go,” an uptempo, girl-power anthem featuring Da Brat, and she even performed the song on the MTV Awards in Asia. However, the project was ultimately pushed back in favor of Kelly returning to the studio to work on more material. Some suspected this was due to the pending release of Beyoncé’s next album, B’Day, but Kelly insisted that she was simply not satisfied with the album just yet. As it stood, My Story was full of mid-tempos and ballads; a heartbreak record.
However, fans got a pretty substantial taste of what the album would have been. In the early months of 2006, before the pushback, a number of My Story songs leaked on the internet. First, there was an alternative version of “Gotsta Go,” featuring Eve. As well, clips of future-Ms. Kelly tracks “Ghetto,” “The Show,” “Every Thought Is You,” and “This Is Love” were leaked online. A clip and a full, but remixed, version of the heartbreaking “Still In Love With My Ex” also leaked. All of these songs found their way onto the 2007 iteration of the album, but there were some more songs that never did. “What It Do” was one of these songs, as well as “Blaze,” “Tell Me,” and “Get Back.” Kelly also recorded a gospel song for a Music World compilation record, penned by Michelle Williams, entitled “You Will Win,” and a collaboration with an Arabic artist Amine, “H’Bibi I Love You.” Ultimately, none of these tracks ended up on Ms. Kelly, though. Kelly expressed interest in recording some more upbeat songs for the album so that it was not so weighed down by the heartbreak.
Enter “Like This.”
Released in March 2007, “Like This” was just what Kelly needed to reignite some fire under her sophomore solo set. The Eve-assisted song quietly took off at urban radio, ultimately becoming an underrated yet classic moment in Kelly’s career. It also helped to solidify Kelly’s place in Hip-Hop as a go-to collaborator for female and male rap artists. Not to mention, the Destiny’s Child reunion during its performance at the 2007 BET Awards certainly helped make the song iconic:
Ms. Kelly: The Bops
However, most of the album still delved into the very personal details of her experiences with love and heartbreak over the last few years. Only the up-tempos stray from this subject matter. “Like This” celebrates being single after a break-up, while “Comeback” is a hard-hitting bop laced with braggadocio. The album’s final single, “Work,” is a dance floor ready jam similar in vein to the subject matter of Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath. The song went on to become a smash hit internationally, thanks to its Freemasons Remix, helping to position Kelly as a dance-pop icon. Meanwhile the second single “Ghetto” is a slinky R&B track produced by Tank and features Snoop Dogg. With “Ghetto,” Kelly proved she could hang alongside one of hip-hops most iconic figures. (It, however, did not perform as well as the other two singles).
Ms. Kelly: The Romantic
The album’s other Tank production is “The Show,” which is actually a duet between the pair. The sensual mid tempo is quintessential baby making music, a niche that Kelly would continue to master as her solo career continued. Another romantic number, “Every Thought is You,” is another highlight of the album. On it, Kelly flows impeccably over the eclectic beat, weaving rhyme after rhyme, creating an infectious track. It details that moment of infatuation when you start dating someone new; it perfectly embodies the newness of it all. It goes on to talk about going past that honeymoon stage as the level of commitment heightens.
Ms. Kelly: The Personal
Perhaps the most personal song on the album is should-have-been-single, “Still in Love With My Ex.” In it, Kelly details just why she ended her engagement to ex-fiancé Roy Williams. The record is an apology to him, explaining that she could not go through with it because she was still in love with her ex. It’s a heartbreakingly honest confession, and had the potential to be a hit like Usher’s “Confessions” or Mariah’s “We Belong Together.” Little did we know then, that the song would be a key factor in decoding just what she was talking about on 2013’s “Dirty Laundry.”
Ms. Kelly: The Innovative
Also fitting into that narrative is “Flashback,” the first song fans heard from the project in early 2006. The song finds Kelly lamenting on love lost, reminiscing about better times with her ex. Assumedly, its the same “ex” in “Still in Love With My Ex,” who would theoretically be the same ex from Destiny Fulfilled’s “Bad Habit,” and Talk a Good Game’s “Dirty Laundry.” Though, here, she sounds more hopeful than later on in the album. “Flashback” is a standout track on the album, however, for many reasons. Musically, the track is quite unique and has this futuristic intro that will catch your attention right away. The song prods along with intricate musical and vocal production that is sure to impress and have you discovering new subtleties with each listen.
Ms. Kelly: The Kiss-Offs
However, later in the album, it becomes clear that Kelly was becoming increasingly over her ex. “Love” is ironically a scathing song dedicated to her ex (co-penned by Solange!). Essentially, the song rests on the sentiment that, “I thank you for showing me that world don’t turn because of you. And, love… feels so good now that someone stopped the storm. I’m so wrong, with you.” Put into context with the events of “Dirty Laundry,” and the song becomes all the more powerful. Considering it being written from the perspective of an abusive relationship, the song reflects the moment when someone in an abusive relationship finally realizes that the world does not revolve around the abuser. It is an emotional moment of realization, followed by an even more pensive track.
The contemplative “Better Without You” finds Kelly reflecting on leaving the wrong one, and focusing on her own happiness first and foremost. It’s not clear whether this song was recorded before or after the delay, but it would make sense if it was recorded after. Without it, the album might’ve felt a bit incomplete. She sings, “I’m not reminiscing, I am living in this moment, I am moving forward because the worst is far behind me.” It provides closure to her emotional turmoil that we now know, from “Dirty Laundry,” came from an abusive relationship.
Ms. Kelly: The Future
Finally, the album ends on a positive note: “This Is Love.” The song’s orchestral introduction sounds like it came straight from a Disney film, before sprawling into an acoustic ballad. She sings, “I can’t wait another day, to say, this is love.” The ballad is perfect wedding song material, and it’s placement in the track-listing is indeed thought-provoking. Following “Better Without You,” it feels almost as though “This Is Love” represents Kelly’s desire for love; her dream for the perfect love. Ten years ago, it was only a fantasy, yet, today, amazingly it is a reality. She is a wife to her husband Tim, and the mother to her beautiful son, Titan. It must feel so surreal for Kelly now, ten years later, to look back and see how much her life has changed for the better. Ms. Kelly, released 10 years ago today, is the perfect time capsule of a much different time in her life. Different, yet essential to her journey.