Keyshia Cole's ascent was prepared with an appearance on the Barbershop 2 soundtrack and a mixtape presented by DJ Green Lantern, yet 2005's The Way It Is wasn't exactly hotly anticipated. On the strength of two Top Ten R&B singles, the album eventually went platinum, several months after release, slowly transforming her into one of R&B's biggest stars -- one often mentioned on a first-name basis, and one with several comparisons to Mary J. Blige. Cole's second album will only prompt more of those comparisons, nearly to the extent that it might seem like its purpose. In addition to becoming Blige's labelmate at Geffen, Cole prefaced the album's release with performances that included her takes on "I'm Going Down" and "Sweet Thing" -- two songs memorably updated by a young Blige -- which could be construed as insolence, reverence, or a combination of the two. In some ways, Just Like You plays out like an album that could've only been made after Blige's Breakthrough. The common collaborators include Rodney Jerkins, Ron Fair, and Bryan-Michael Cox, two of whom had nothing to do with The Way It Is. "Got to Get My Heart Back" could have been written to one-up The Breakthrough's "Enough Cryin"; these two Jerkins productions are somewhat similar in makeup, though the former's sting is a little more bittersweet while also hitting just a little bit harder. "Got to Get My Heart Back" would sound natural flowing out of The Breakthrough's "Take Me as I Am," not just sonically but as the next natural development in a busted relationship -- from putting a foot down to making a recovery. Both tracks are Ron Fair productions. Songs co-written and produced by others, like "Fallin' Out" and "Give Me More," would also be easy fits on The Breakthrough, balancing desperation with conviction and mixing lush arrangements with penetrative melodies. Add a wicked Missy Elliott-produced throwback to Bad Boy's golden era, a repeat appearance of Cole's album-stealing feature from Diddy's Press Play -- which, coincidentally, also contains a Blige feature -- and a photo spread that looks very Blige-like, and you might wonder whether or not Cole is pulling a Single Black Female. (Just Like You? Just like who, exactly?) Despite all this weirdness, this stands as a very good album by Keyshia Cole, also the point where Cole's voice grows from an occasionally powerful emotive device into a versatile instrument.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
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