A popular and strange opinion prior to the late 2010 release of No Boys Allowed was that Keri Hilson's career was on life support. Her 2009 debut album failed to go platinum, but a number one R&B single and a number two R&B single, along with nominations for Soul Train, BET, American Music, and Grammy Awards, did not exactly place her on a fast track to the Shanachie label's covers-album exile. And yet, her follow-up isn't merely eager to stand out but rather desperate, as if the studios in which it was recorded contained a clock counting down to the point of failure, the moment when Hilson would no longer stand a chance of being a ubiquitous, multi-platinum superstar. Being a mid-level star, apparently, is not acceptable, so she and her support staff go all out. Hilson, despite being a gifted songwriter, contributes to only five of the 11 songs, while a vast assortment of collaborators -- a number that dwarfs that of In a Perfect World... -- are enlisted to help produce a set that often falls flat. The most emblematic track is "The Way You Love Me," rowdy and sexually direct dance-pop ideal for the soundtrack to a straight-to-DVD Showgirls sequel. A couple great lines, like "I got the kinda lovin' that'll keep you off the streets," are buried in a barrage of screaming vocals and blaring sonics. There is a handful of direct hits, like the Danja-produced "Toy Soldier" (palpable heartache that hangs in suspension), the sleek StarGate/Esther Dean collaboration "Lose Control" (despite an "anus"/"famous" rhyme from Nelly), and "Gimme What I Want," something of a part two to both "Turnin' Me On" and "Get Your Money Up" (featuring a phenomenal shape-shifting beat from Boi-1da).
No Boys Allowed Review
by Andy Kellman