Since the start of her career, Keyshia Cole has appealed to an audience of Hip-Hop/Soul and R&B fans. However, on the heels of her underwhelming ‘Calling All Hearts’ album and the shrinking of the once dominant Urban market, Cole goes beyond her comfort zone with her latest offering, ‘Woman to Woman’.
By accepting ‘Call All Hearts’ as a commercial and artistic failure, Cole experiments with new sounds on ‘Woman to Woman’. From the falsetto that she once publicly regarded as a weak trick to pulsing Dance beats, the songstress tests different approaches to reignite the interest of former fans and access entirely different markets beyond neighbourhood beauty parlours.
Cole coos in her surprisingly cool falsetto voice on the catchy ‘Hey Sexy’ as she wafts over the foot-stomping beat of the R&B number. Yet, that song is quite dull when compared to best vocal performance on ‘Woman to Woman’, ‘I Choose You’.
Overlooking the tightness of her high belting and the occasional flat note that many of us have come to expect from Cole – she really needs to get tested for a possible inner ear problem – ‘I Choose You’ is a powerful display of her true vocal ability. Cole thunders through the tune while switching gears between the various registers of her voice and demonstrating that she is anything but a one trick pony. You know, like the horse she probably shaved down to make the various wigs in the ‘Woman to Woman’ album booklet.
Sadly, all experiments don’t yield favourable results and Cole proves that on ‘Wonderland’. Clumsily flaunting what I can only assume is her sex appeal, she flounders awkwardly in the song and pales in comparison to her duet partner, Elijah Blake, who outshines her with almost embarrassing ease.
“…with these rough and sloppy main vocals, Cole shouldn’t be surprised if her man’s next move is to another country.”
Cole drops the ball again on ‘Next Move’, which includes an appearance by Robin Thicke on background duty. Instead of pleasantly appealing to her hesitant lover to take their relationship to the next level, Cole sounds angry and abusive on the track. Honestly, with these rough and sloppy main vocals, she shouldn’t be surprised if her man’s next move is to another country.
If you ever wondered how Cole would sound while performing Dance music then there are two tracks on ‘Woman to Woman’ that will satisfy your curiosity. Firstly, she dips just one toe into the Electro pool on ‘Stubborn’ but the Darkchild-produced record sounds disjointed and unmastered because her R&B-styled vocals fail match the production. Were Cole and her producers even in the same room when this was recorded?
Secondly, we have the synth-heavy, gay club anthem ‘Here We Go’ on which Cole tucks her weave under an extra large swim cap and dives head first into the Dance arena. Do you remember the Def Club Mix of Mariah Carey’s ‘Fantasy’? Well, the chorus of ‘Here We Go’ is almost an exact copy of that song’s climax, with the exception of an ill-advised higher key that pushes Cole to the extreme limit of her range.
Now that we’ve covered all the missteps on ‘Woman to Woman’, it’s time for us to address the happier side of the album. Don’t worry, there are several strong tracks to fill your iPod and they don’t all involve shabby production and painful wails.
There is no question that the singles ‘Enough of No Love (Ft. Lil Wayne)’, ‘Trust & Believe’ and ‘Zero (Ft. Meek Mill)’ are among the best selections on ‘Woman to Woman’ but there other cuts worth mentioning. Among those tunes are ‘Missing Me’ and the Mary J. Blige-flavoured ‘Get it Right’. The melody of the latter tune effectively masks raunchy lyrics about stroking and moaning, thus making the song a prime candidate for a future release.
On ‘Who’s Gonna Hold Me Down’, Cole channels her inner Isaac Hayes as she raps between rounds of squalling guitar-backed singing. More of her influences can be heard in ‘Forever’, which was produced by T-Minus with slick harmonies that are reminiscent of Brandy’s signature sound from the ‘Afrodisiac’ era.
Finally, we have the mellow and almost forgettable ‘Why Lie’, Cole’s direct attempt at targeting Top 40/Mainstream radio, ‘Signature’, and the lyrically-driven ‘Woman to Woman’ title track. The last of those songs features Ashanti and wonderfully builds on the 1970s work of Betty Wright.
All in all, ‘Woman to Woman’ is a solid addition to Cole’s already extensive catalogue of hits. The album isn’t her best but her efforts to accomplish growth while remaining in touch with her roots deserve recognition. Hey, at least Cole gave us new music to play at the next block party hosted at cousin Ray Ray’s house!
Standout tracks: ‘Woman to Woman’, ‘Trust & Believe’, ‘Enough of No Love (Ft. Lil Wayne)’ and ‘I Choose You’
Weakest track: ‘Next Move (Ft. Robin Thicke)’
Possible singles: ‘Missing Me’ and ‘Get it Right’
The Lava Lizard Rating: 3/5 Stars