K. Michelle, Kimberly: The People I Used to Know | Album Review
‘Rough around the edges’ R&B singer K. Michelle returns with an intriguing fourth studio album, ‘Kimberly: The People I Used to Know.’
Bold. Unapologetic. Unafraid. Those are just a few adjectives that characterize contemporary R&B singer K. Michelle. She definitely lives on the edge. Her highly anticipated fourth studio album, Kimberly: The People I Used to Know, exemplifies such edginess. Even so, what stands out the most about this project is her powerful, nuanced voice. Throughout, it is the voice that shines brightest.
“Make This Song Cry”
Kimberly kicks off ‘poetically’ with intro, “Welcome to the people I used to know.” A brief number, “Alert,” follows, finding K. Michelle referring to herself as ‘K Dot,’ and more surprisingly, rapping. She even patterns herself after Kendrick Lamar. On “God, Love, Sex, and Drugs,” she wants it all – the wholesome, the pleasurable, and shallow things in life. She admits this clearly on the outro of the record. It’s referenced throughout the course of this soulful, yet ‘rough around the edges’ joint.
“Make This Song Cry” samples the Bobby Glenn classic “Sounds Like a Love Song,” as well as interpolates Jay-Z rap gem, “Song Cry.” As always, K. Michelle delivers powerful, dramatic vocals. It doesn’t take long for the profanity to arrive, in the form of an f-bomb on the first verse. The chorus is tough, memorable, and catchy.
“I left all my hoes / Told ‘em not to call and text me no more! / Now you so ungrateful / Do you know how hard it was for me to stay faithful? / Bae, I’mma make this cry / Never let a n***a see me cry…”
There’s never a shortage of passion Michelle. She delivers the goods on “Make This Song Cry.”
“Crazy Like You” balances the contemporary and soul soundly. The melodic lines are quick, incredibly rhythmic, and at times, half-rapped. The third verse is all rap, and bold rap for that matter. She’s got bars. Regardless, she ‘brings it on home’ on the soaring chorus. Standout “Kim K” is fueled by 2Pac classic, “I Ain’t Mad at Cha,” a fitting backdrop as she preaches a sermon about black issues, including cultural appropriation. Named after Kim Kardashian, Michelle criticizes her privilege, best evidenced on the memorable chorus.
“Naked in the kitchen while I’m cookin’ collards / I’mma bring my best friend, let her kiss all on ya!” Whoa! “Takes Two” pairs K. Michelle with Jeremih, who always seems to be associated with ‘sex’ songs. Indeed, “Takes Two” is freaky, focused on the bedroom. In the same token, it’s soulful and irresistible – among the crème de la crème of Kimberly. “Rounds” follows, in all its soulful, alcoholic-fueled sex. As with the majority album to this point, the melody is rhythmic, highly influenced by hip-hop. Furthermore, the ‘IDGAF’ vibes continue.
From the jump, the aggressive, nasty groove of banger “Either Way” stands out. K. Michelle comes out swinging (cussing):
“Ass shots, real or fake / That ass gon’ jiggle for ‘em anyway / Ain’t f**kin’ with me on your best day.”
Chris Brown makes his first appearance on pre-chorus, reappearing on the following chorus, as well as delivering his own verse. He matches the attitude of Michelle. Once again, we hear Michelle drops bars.
“Birthday” is a sensually-driven, erotic joint. The context of the naughtiness is sex. Among the pros are great production work, characterized by lush sounds and trap drums. Expectedly, she delivers an excellent vocal performance. She continues to show off her unapologetic personality as well. On the second verse, once again, she raps.
“No Not You”
“F**k Your Man – Interlude” gives K. Michelle a jazzier, classier-sounding, ‘out of character’ song. Classified as an interlude, it’s as long as a full-length song. Ultimately, as the explicit song title states, she asserts, “I should f**k your man.” Charming, and sung with such coolness. After a litany of swears throughout the album, “No Not You” finds Michelle focuses simply on her best attribute – her voice. She exhibits grit, soul, and attitude sans colorful words. Likewise, on the throwback “Giving Up on Love,” she keeps clean and focused ‘on the prize.’ There’s more maturity here and less focus on how much needless profanity and filth can be uttered.
Following the brief “Help Me Grow – Interlude,” “Heaven” finds K. Michelle ‘going out of the box’ a bit. This is still R&B, but there’s more of pop influence – as in pop balladry that is. Again, she is much classier while her voice continues to do work. “Run Don’t Walk” gets even more pop influence, co-written by Kelly Clarkson, as well as Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly. Perhaps the results aren’t as intriguing as some of her boldest moments, but showcases her versatility.
“Talk to God”
Following her “Industry Suicide” note, K. Michelle comes back ‘roaring’ with “Talk to God.”
“Talk to God about me /How you feel about me / Look Him in His eyes / Ask Him why I’m fly / Talk to God about me / How you feel inside / Let him confirm those lies / Ask him why, oh why, why?”
Sometimes she raps, sometimes she sings, but she’s always focused on others talking about her, urging them to “talk to God.” “Brain on Love” is a soaring, straightforward, beautifully sung ballad. “Woman of My Word” likewise looks back to ‘the past’ for inspiration, clearly influenced and infused with the gospel cues of southern soul in an updated fashion. “Outro,” a spoken word interlude, concludes.
All in all, Kimberly: The People I Used to Know gives K. Michelle another enjoyable, well-rounded album. If nothing else, she shows how versatile she is artistically, bouncing between being unapologetic, showing class, and always flaunting her magnificent voice. The album runs a bit long, but, there’s definitely something for everybody.
Gems: “Make This Song Cry,” “Kim K,” “Takes Two,” “Either Way,” “Birthday,” “No Not You,” “Giving Up on Love”