Keyshia Cole 

A Different Me

The anguish of love betrayed that seeped like blood from an unhealed wound on much of Keyshia Cole's first two albums is far less evident on the Oakland-bred soul singer's third. Having largely purged the pain, Cole now presents A Different Me. I'm bright as the stars, so make me brighter. I'm already the shit, baby, so make me better, she commands on "Make Me Over," the disc's most musically compelling track, produced by Polow Da Don and Ron Fair. The up-tempo groove is positively buoyant, driven by Jason Perry's live drums, beginning with deliciously syncopated, double-time swing played by wire brushes on snare drum before moving to the ride cymbal's bell, then to the entire kit. The tune, which interpolates part of an obscure Ike and Tina Turner number titled "Tina's Wish," is one of only two in the disc's fourteen that the vocalist didn't have a hand in writing.

On her own compositions, rendered in typically urgent tones, though at times sounding as if they've been Auto-Tune processed, she appears to have found a new lover, yet often leaves herself vulnerable to heartbreak. You hold my heart in your hands, and it's okay 'cause I trust that you'll be the best man that you can, Cole wails in multi-tracked harmony, around which she weaves churchy melismata, during "You Complete Me." On another ballad, "Playa Cardz Right," she offers, I want to be the one who you can depend on, who'll be the one who'll be there through the thick and thin, to which her onetime mentor, Tupac Shakur, warns, as if speaking from the grave, Gotta be patient. Gotta play your cards right on one. Can't be rushin' like it's a race. Know what I'm sayin'? (Geffen)

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