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Does Not Eclipse Her First Effort,
This review is from: No Boys Allowed (Audio CD)
Keri Hilson's first album, In a Perfect World..., garnered plenty of buzz, though it didn't quite achieve the sales expectations deserved or desired by parent label Interscope (Hilson is signed to producer Timbaland's imprint, which is distributed by Interscope Records). That said, Hilson's debut was certified gold, and she remains a fixture on Interscope with her sophomore effort, No Boys Allowed. No Boys Allowed's title is certain `off-putting' making the listener question if Hilson is aiming to `switch up' her style on her second album. The answer to that is both `yes' and `no.' Still chocked full of dance, pop, and urban cuts, it this regard, `No Boys Allowed' feels similar to its predecessor. The biggest changes are that there are less songs co-written by Keri and less cuts contributed by producer Timbaland. While this could be perceived positively, to some extent, it makes this sophomore album sound less captivating or `magical' than the first. There are some solid cuts, but there are also some clumsier ones, which were absent from Hilson's exceptional debut effort.
"Buyou" featuring up-and-coming rapper J. Cole is solid, though not nearly as captivating as the pulsating "Turning Me On" from her debut (produced by Polow da Don). The production work by Boi-1da is great, and the hook - albeit it corny - is catchy. "Pretty Girl Rock," the current single from this effort impacting the charts, is one of the nice `change of pace' moments from Hilson's debut. Written by Ne-Yo and Chuck Harmony and using a clever interpolation of "Just The Two of Us," "Pretty Girl Rock" is a clear-cut `winner' with a fine vocal performance and catchy chorus putting the cut `over-the-top': "All eyes on me, when I walk in/no question that this girl's a ten/don't hate me cause I'm beautiful, don't hate me cause I'm beautiful/my walk, my talk, the way I dress/It's not my fault so please don't trip/don't hate me cause I'm beautiful, don't hate me cause I'm beautiful... do the pretty girl rock..."
"The Way You Love Me" featuring Rick Ross features solid production work, but comes over as Keri trying too hard. Hilson sounds incredibly manic here which is something listeners never heard on her debut; she possessed swagger without ever sounding to hard on `In A Perfect World.' "Bahm Bahm (Do It Again)/I Want You" is one of the album's biggest misses with the Polow Da Don's reggae-styled bit somewhat of an ill match for Hilson. The laziness of the track during its `reggae-phase' grows old quickly while the switch to "I Want You" is odd, though wanes some of the predictability of the cut. "One Night Stand" featuring Chris Brown atones for "Bahm Bahm," though the lyricism of this cut is shallow ("a one night stand is all I need, just you and me"), which degrades some of the credibility of the cut. That said, the harmonized vocals on the chorus by Hilson and Brown work extraordinarily well and the chemistry between the two is superb.
"Lose Control/Let Me Down" featuring Nelly is a solid cut (contributed by Stargate). Hilson sounds phenomenal here vocally, particularly when she exploits the upper extremes of her voice. Nelly's rap is strong, save for his "anus" reference, which is completely clumsy and utterly ridiculous. "Toy Soldier, " produced by Danja (Nate Hills) is well produced with a relatively catchy hook ("He said that I would never have to fight again/He said that I would never have to cry again..."). The problem is that it is not quite a hit or quite `the standout record' one would hope for. "Breaking Point," produced by Timbaland features great production work and is overall solid, though it feels the slightest bit `undercooked.' Keri sounds great here, and the background vocal arrangement is superb.
"Beautiful Mistake" is not `a beautiful mistake' but rather just a `mistake.' Merely average, "Beautiful Mistake" doesn't dare rival former Timbaland collaborations including the fine "Return the Favor" from Hilson's debut. Thankfully, the Boi-1da produced "Gimme What I Want" restores the momentum with big drums and apocalyptic sounding synths. Again, the lyricism is shallow, but catchy, particularly the chorus: "Boy don't tease, gimme, gimme what I want/I want it up, down, all around put it on me right now..." Clocking in under three minutes, the length is more than satisfactory. "All The Boys" is an interesting listen and not a bad song, but sounds like it would work best if John Legend (one of the songwriters and the pianist) were singing it instead. "Pretty Girl Rock" featuring Kanye West closes the album solidly, but also proves the point that one iteration of the hit, absent of a guest-rap verse would have been enough.
Overall, No Boys Allowed is just ok. There are no revolutionary hits here (save for "Pretty Girl Rock"), which makes this a downgrade as opposed to an upgrade from her debut. This album will most likely not buy any new fans given its un-even nature. There are good moments and not-so good moments making this album a mixed bag.
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Initial post: Mar 10, 2011 10:52:13 AM PST
Can I disagree with your assessment of Beautiful Mistake. That's a gem. That's about the only song on there that's not contrived or trashy or shallow. Taking the album for what it is, pop, the cuts are generally dope and meaty at some points, but amidst that, Beautiful Mistake shines, it stands out. Keri's not trying so hard here as she is on other cuts and Timbo's production beautifully captured the essence of the lyrics...it's a haunting song that stays with you, thanks in no small part, to Keri's stellar and convincing vocals on it.
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