In my perfect world auto-tune would be a distant memory, Pimp C would still be alive and Rick...
DJBooth Album Review
Keri Hilson’s earned her time in the spotlight, starting out as a songwriter for the likes of Britney, Usher and Luda. Then a fortuitous meeting with uber-producer Timbaland lead to a record deal and a powerful introduction to the world on the breakthrough hit The Way I Are. Now, nearly two years after its first release date, Hilson is finally ready to showcase her considerable skills with her debut album In A Perfect World. Hilson has said her goal was to use Perfect World’s openly honest songwriting to show just how real and imperfect she is, which ironically brings her closer to becoming a perfect musician (a singer so strong they can be entirely themselves at all times). Lofty ideals aside, Perfect World is the work of an artist who is still learning to take center stage, but once she does should stay there for a long time.
If Turning Me On is any indication, it’s only a matter of time until Hilson’s a star in her own right. Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the beat by Polow is sick, and Weezy delivers another censor-worthy guest verse (apparently you can’t say “vagina tight” on the radio). But even with this considerable assistance it’s the force of Hilson’s personality, equal parts defiant diva and willing bombshell, that makes Turning Me On stand out. It’s odd to hear the fiercely independent Hilson tell a square he has “one more chance” to feel on her booty - she should have slapped him the first time - but it’s a trivial complaint amidst near pop-perfection. Similarly brazen is the pounding Get Your Money Up, a ladies-only jam that brings on Keyshia and Trina for a club-banger that’s like a female version of Pop Champagne. As you’d expect from a Timbaland protege, Perfect World’s full of electronically dense dance jams like Turning Me On and Money Up that Hilson flows over with the capable ease of a veteran.
Strangely that charisma seems to dissipate when Perfect World slows down. Just take the sparkling Make Love, a ballad that slowly cruises over piano harmonies and grinding percussion. It’s the kind of baby-maker she might have written for Usher a couple years ago, but here she’s the sole focus. It’s hard to find an obvious flaw in Make Love, but it still somehow falls just short. It feels like a track about making love, instead of a track that inspires love-making. It’s the same story on Slow Dance, a slow jam that made me have Aaliyah flashbacks, only Hilson can’t quite vocally seduce us the way Aaliyah could (then again, no one could do it like Aaliyah). A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that Hilson doesn’t have a breathtaking voice; she never misses a note, but she lacks that extra gear the truly great singers have. Hilson could make up for this lack of vocal firepower by amping up the performance (see The-Dream for how it’s done), but on Perfect World she often sounds like she’s holding herself back. Here’s hoping that the next time around she practices a little reckless abandon.
Great club music, solid slow jams - it’s no wonder than that Hilson dominates the mid-tempo jam. The majority of Perfect World sails at a smooth pace, starting with the riding Knock You Down, a heartfelt future single featuring a typically clever verse from Kanye and some vocal assistance from Ne-Yo, another master of the mid-tempo. Even better is the Asian-influenced Intuition, a track that Hilson softly sets on fire over a classically-styled Timbaland beat (there goes that Aaliyah comparison again). I’m even a fan of the confessional Energy, a track that lulls at times but ultimately captivates. I’m sure in her perfect world Hilson would have put out a classic album the first time around, but almost no one gets to be that lucky. As it is In A Perfect World holds a promise, the promise of a star in the making, and now it’s up to Hilson to deliver on that promise. I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like when she does.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Mar 18, 2009
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