Kelly Rowland spent about five years as Beyonce’s handmaiden in Destiny’s Child and almost twice that long trying to establish a successful career of her own. Conventional wisdom has held that Rowland was a charisma-challenged nice girl destined to forever be a musical bridesmaid.
Her third solo album, the perfectly likable, club-centric R&B outing “Here I Am,” won’t convince anyone that Rowland has a personality, but luckily for her, she no longer needs one: Call it the Attack of the Rihanna Clones, but these days killer beats and a flat affect trump all. Rowland, free of the need to actually be interesting, makes the most of it.
“Here I Am” favors low-octane, nondescript tracks such as the Big Sean-assisted “Lay It on Me,” on which nobody seems to be trying particularly hard, especially Big Sean, who sounds like he’s spitting his verse with one eye on the door. Rowland jettisons her dignity (has there ever been a club diva who has found hers helpful?) on the Lil’ Wayne-starring “Motivation,” a modest banger with an air of damp, aggressively debauched Weezyness.
The less awkward “Commander,” a collaboration with French producer David Guetta, is a sequel of sorts to their ’09 hit, “When Love Takes Over,” the dance-floor powerhouse that changed the course of Rowland’s moribund career. A relentless electro jam as anonymous as it is good, it’s a girl-power anthem written by three men, but you can’t have everything.
— Allison Stewart