Given Keyshia Cole’s last major hit was the one members of the #Beyhive placed upon the back of her head, I’m delighted to know she’s going back to what works for her.
I don’t wish misery on anyone much less the daughter of Frankie Lons, but Keyshia’s music is best when it caters to the following themes: Fuck that nigga. Fuck that nigga, he ain’t shit. Fuck that ain’t shit nigga. Sure, she has her moments when she can offer a gem when she’s singing about the joys of love and sex. The little known track “Hey Sexy” comes to mind. Still, most of Keyshia Cole’s fans – self-included – prefer Keyshia Cole when she’s cursing someone out.
That’s not to say she isn’t capable of singing more lovey dovey songs, but a lot of her decline can be attributed to her trying to sell us an image of herself that didn’t exist yet. It took Mary J. Blige a smooth decade before she introduced “Happy Mary J. Blige” and even then she had suffered some bumps in the road initially. You know, the Love & Life album that y’all didn’t buy. Or the one before it, No More Drama, which was essentially saved by “Family Affair” and “Rainy Dayz” from the rerelease. Whew, white people and old Black aunties and uncles love the hell out of some “Family Affair.”
In any event, Keyshia Cole was trying to serve you Happy Mary J. Blige in less than half the time, only it didn’t work because her “happier” themed reality show (among other things — like her opening her mouth) proved that she was still always two snide remarks away from potentially pulling out the razor blade from underneath her tongue and stabbing you in the neck. Where you at, Oakland?
And God Bless her throat, but it wasn’t made for some of the pop songs she attempted to sing. Girl, that’s not your purpose. The same goes for that one time I saw you sitting by Paris Hilton’s bed looking confused as the MTV cameras role.
That said, while I do think Keyshia Cole is at her best when she’s abrasive, I don’t think that she necessarily has to be angry to offer good, commercially viable music. The same goes for anyone else, including Our Lady of the Somber Bop, Mary J. Blige. Soul music doesn’t have to make you want to slit your wrist after one too many sips of Wild Turkey and Jack Daniels Honey, but it does have to actually be soulful — which requires you to sing from the heart. It you don’t sing it with conviction, consumers are going to know that and not buy accordingly. That ultimately is the larger issue that gets ignored in the sad vs. happy music debate we have about acts like MJB and her Solange, Keyshia Cole.
Keyshia, Mary can get away with singing soulless Christmas tunes made for the department stores of the country versus the hoods of the world because she gave us a whole decade of music we can always go back to. She’s family at this point whereas you remain that play cousin we’re cool with, but still won’t invite over for no more than a few hours.
Which is why Keyshia Cole can quietly continue to move a couple hundred thousand units each release – no easy feat for an R&B artist in today’s climate – but be seen as a declining act all the same. After all, K. Michelle has stolen all of Keysh’s old red packets of Kool-Aid for hair inspiration and won over fans with her mixtapes and album that gives The Way It Is (with a better voice) teases.
There’s room for both, but Keysh, there’s nothing like you singing about a bullshit man with your blend of sore throat-sounding hip hop soul. Maybe you can try that happy thing later. Say, when you actually seem your happiest. Like, many of us have come to accept that Mary is in a different space. We just hope that space incorporates more R&B when it can ala My Life II: The Journey continues. That’s not a common sentiment held for you, though, sis.
Until that changes, stick to songs like “Loyal Freestyle.” Well, without Sean Kingston. That’s not okay and you need to know that.