Kelly Rowland: Ms. Kelly

Stop feeling sorry for Kelly Rowland; she doesn’t need your pity. Since the effectual break-up of Destiny’s Child, Kelly’s stalled solo career has often been attributed to Beyoncé’s supposed “lead singer syndrome” or a nonsensical plot by Matthew Knowles to keep his biological daughter in the spotlight (as if he wouldn’t want them both to succeed). True, Kelly hasn’t reached the same level of stardom as B, but is anyone holding Kelly back more than Kelly herself? People will believe what they choose to believe, but with the release of Rowland’s latest, Ms. Kelly (Sony), Rowland seems to be her own worst enemy.Musically, Ms. Kelly comes across like a lost Destiny’s Child group album, which here in 2007, isn’t meant to be a compliment. By now, nearly every aspect of DC’s act has been lifted over and over again by every forgettable, one-hit-wonder R&B chick under the sun. Because Rowland hasn’t modified her sound to stay ahead of the pack, Ms. Kelly doesn’t show enough individual personality to prove that she’s more than just a lucky back-up singer. Polow Da Don’s amateurish production backs the false-start opener “Like This,” which apparently isn’t about anything. Scott Storch doesn’t follow-up with much more on “Comeback” which could’ve been a remix to “Bills Bills Bills.” Either track may have worked a few years ago but are unimpressive today. Things pick up a bit when the album moves towards the slower love songs, where Rowland is able to lean on her strength as a vocalist rather than trying to force herself into the mold of a pop star. Storch redeems himself with “Flashback,” which at least feels like a legitimate attempt at a departure. The same goes for “Love” which, despite the plain title and obvious Neptunes “influence” (read: jack), finds Kelly conveying a range of believable emotions for one of the few times in the whole experience.While getting out from under the ever-expanding shadow of Beyoncé won’t be easy by any means, Kelly probably could do so if she were willing to experiment more. In reality, her true competitors are the Keyshia Coles and Fantasias of the world anyway, but she doesn’t quite measure up to them either due to a lack of conviction in her performance. Right now, Ms. Rowland is merely okay and as a result, Ms. Kelly is the same.