KEYSHIA COLE 

Just Like You

The heartbreak from a fractured romance that brought such intense emotion to The Way It Is, Keyshia Cole's 2005 debut CD, remains much in evidence on her follow-up. No one knew all the pain I went through, the Oakland-bred, Atlanta-based soul singer confesses over a lush cushion of strings on the ballad "I Remember." Nearly every other one of her anguished words is broken into syllable-splitting curlicues. I'm so confused, she admits on "Losing You," a ballad duet with neo-soul man Anthony Hamilton, who offers solace in a low, gritty gospel-quartet tenor. I'm trying to be happy, Cole wails on the title track. A brief thanks to God follows her soaring vocals. The healing process has begun, and throughout Just Like You, Cole comes across as a more confident artist without sacrificing the honesty that has made her the decade's most refreshing female R&B voice. Cole calls her song-publishing company She Wrote It, and, indeed, she penned all fourteen on the disc — each in collaboration with a different producer. Her melodies have simple, singsong qualities, but the variety of producers allows for widely contrasting textures and beats — from Scott Storch's Barry White-/Gene Page-like arrangement of "Give Me More" to the Runners' wildly syncopated percussion on "Didn't I Tell You," to which Too $hort contributes. Other guest rappers include Diddy, T.I., Lil' Kim, and Missy Elliott, whose Like, damn that's hot! interjections on the dance-floor-friendly hit "Let It Go" pretty much sum up Cole's current effort. — Lee Hildebrand

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