Keri Hilson - No Boys Allowed

Posted 5 years ago
Tags: Keri Hilson,

I highly recommend you don’t think too much about the title of Keri Hilson’s sophomore...

No Boys Allowed Album Review

I highly recommend you don’t think too much about the title of Keri Hilson’s sophomore album, No Boys Allowed. I know this will shock my regular readers, but I couldn’t help but ponder its meaning, and all I have to show for my contemplations is a headache. Not only are boys allowed, the album is a musical boy’s club, a project exclusively featuring male artists and almost exclusively crafted by male producers and songwriters (with Keri the obvious exception). Even given Ms. Keri Baby’s explanation that she was excluding “boys” but welcoming “men”, it’s ironic for an album ostensibly aimed at female empowerment defines women solely based on their relationships, good or bad, to men. A better title might have been, People With Penises and the Women Who Can’t Help But Love Them. Ok, so it’s not as catchy as No Boys Allowed, but at least it’d be accurate.

Like I said, it’s best not to think about these things. Instead, it’s far more useful not to try to apply any broad concepts to No Boys Allowed and instead simply enjoy an expertly crafted hip-pop album. From top to bottom, this project is an exercise in modern hit songwriting, touching on everything from slow reggae-infused burners (Bahm Bahm) to dance floor frenzy inducing bangers (The Way You Love Me) and everything in between. Keri Hilson herself is sometimes lost amongst the album’s constantly shifting sonic texture – it’s the old “if an artist can do everything, what do they do?” paradox – but Hilson is far more than a blank canvas. As No Boys Allowed proves, she’s an artist who deserves to be taken seriously.

None of the album’s singles have so far truly caught fire the way her previous album’s efforts did, namely Knock You Down, but I’m not exactly sure why. Breaking Point, the official lead single, perhaps relies too heavily on Hilson’s voice, which is strong but certainly not elite, but it’s otherwise an expert blend of soul and pop. Maybe Breaking Point required just a little too much thinking, a trait certainly not shared by subsequent efforts. The aforementioned Way You Love Me, notably featuring the most energetic you’re ever going to hear Rick Ross, seems like the kind of club mover that’s been dominating the charts lately, and Pretty Girl Rock is the kind of mid-tempo girls anthem (written, of course, by Ne-Yo) that Keri excels at. All have been moderate hits, but not the kind of game changers Perfect World offered. The remedy? I’m sure the label’s pushing for the swaggering Buyou featuring the red hot J. Cole, but it’s also the album’s most disposable and formulaic effort. Instead I’d go with the supremely catchy and more heartfelt Beautiful Mistake, but hey, what do I know? If I could pick hit singles I’d be raking in money from the labels instead of writing these reviews. (Note to the labels: Call me.)

Despite her obvious mid-tempo comfort zone, Hilson spends a substantial amount of No Boys Allowed slowing down the pace and flirting with slow jam territory. She never fully commits to a ballad, but she comes pretty damn close on tracks like One Night Stand, which might have passed my “would I actually have sex to this song?” test if Keri could make her voice just a touch more sultry, and Toy Soldier, which manages to rise above a somewhat corny premise based primarily on the strength of Hilson’s conviction filled delivery. No such luck for the subtly country influenced All the Boys, which fails to truly connect, and the faster paced Lose Control, which finds both Keri doing a completely unnecessary Rihanna impression (more on that later) and Nelly contributing a mindboggling guest verse; am I hallucinating or does he actually say “it all depends on the way you shakin your anus”? Um…ok then.

I know artists hate to be compared to each other, but too bad Keri, this one’s too good to pass up. With two solid albums under her belt, Keri Hilson has established herself as a more talented, but less marketable, Rihanna. Over the last decade the lines between pop, r&b and hip-hop have blurred, rewarding versatile artists who can make music that reaches across demographic boundaries. In that sense Keri Hilson has to be placed at forefront of modern music’s sure bets. She may not have the overwhelming talent to place her in the stratosphere, but if she can continue making albums like No Boys Allowed, and by all indications she can, we’ll have Ms. Keri Baby in our lives for a while to come. Now if we could only get those album titles squared away.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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