In the process of producing an album, it seems that all the credit goes to the featured artist. They do, after all, provide the main vocal performance, and if they can slap their names on a couple songs as a songwriter, they are blindly (and often, misguidedly) seen as a major threat in the music industry. However, “Here I Am,” the latest work by R&B singer Kelly Rowland, is the perfect example of how crucial a role the producers, not the artist, play. “Here I Am” is an album riddled with cliches and perhaps one too many collaborations but was at least engineered carefully enough to slide by as a passable effort.
Rowland, best known as a founding member of Destiny’s Child, successfully began her solo career in 2002 (if anyone remembers “Dilemma” with Nelly, that was a product of her first album), followed by a disappointing second album, “Ms. Kelly,” in 2007. Rowland is certainly a talented singer, but her individual work, especially “Here I Am,” is still unspectacular.
This latest album contains a couple hits, most notably “Motivation,” the second single and the sultriest song of the album. But it’s hard to tell whether “Motivation” succeeds because of Rowland herself, the grinding beat or Lil Wayne’s star power. The same goes with “Commander,” an excessively auto-tuned song that, at least, is a club thumper (and of course it is, because it was produced by David Guetta).
Besides these two efforts, “Here I Am” is marred by poorly done generic fillers. The album opens with “I’m Dat Chick,” a flimsy attempt at a female empowerment song (“I’m not tacky/I just love myself”), especially when compared to the rest of the more fawning album. “Lay It on Me” (featuring Big Sean), for instance, is an off-putting combination of happy pop beat with the pleading lyrics of a slow jam, while “Down for Whatever” (featuring The Wavs) brings yet another meaningless song, this time with a thick electro rhythm entirely out of place on an R&B album.
“Here I Am” may at least catch up to the sales success of Beyonce’s latest, “4,” if not garner the same critical reception. And the comparison is inevitable, if not regrettable, after the two spent over a decade singing together. Though Rowland shouldn’t have to spend her career in the shadow of Beyonce, she will. “Here I Am” does not help Rowland’s case, lacking the individuality and punch of an excellent solo album.
In the end, the success stories of “Here I Am” lie with a couple singles and several high-flying producers. Without this duo, the album would fall flat; as is, Rowland might think to keep her production team nearby for a while.