Album review: Keri Hilson - No boys allowed

Keri is bringin' the man / scrub hating year of 1999 back with her album No boys allowed. An album chock-a-block full of songs about how dudes are no good, how dudes need money and how dudes should plough the pussy. Keri may want us to believe the album goes deeper than this, but it really doesn't.

"Buyou" is pretty much "Get your money up 2010". A song about how a dude needs to stack paper before he  has a remote chance in hell with Miss Keri. The song is catchy, brassy and fun. But there's nothing else to it. We've heard these types of songs before, most of them from Keri herself. I envision every album of Keri's opening with a joint like this one. Played out. Keri needs to step her own game up and stop watching broke n***a's with these tired arse songs.

"Pretty girl rock" is Keri's woman empowerment anthem. And whilst on the surface it comes off conceited, there is a really nice message behind it all; something which is enforced by the brilliant video which gives props to iconic black women in the music game over the past 50 years. Young girls will be hair brushing it in front of their mirrors to this for a good while. Despite being written and co-produced by Ne-Yo, Keri manages to stay Keri throughout the song. Surprising... Given Ne-Yo seems to force every artist who sings his songs to sing them exactly as he would.

"The way you love me" is complete gutter trash, but it is a banger! There's no denying how hard this beat knocks. And for all of the pointing of fingers at Keri for sounding like a complete slut on this song; there shouldn't really be anything wrong with a woman claiming how good her pussy is, and singing the praises of a n***a who knows how to hit it right. The problem is that Keri will need to be careful with songs like this, as it could harm her chances of crossing over and getting spins on pop radio, which is what she seems to be trying to do with this album. I'm glad she dropped this shit though, because I do love it.

"Bahm Bahm (Do it once again)" is horrid. Whoever told Keri she needed to jump on a bashment inspired joint should have pregnant Mariah splash dive on top of them. There is nothing good about this song. NOTHING!

Keri teams up once again with Chris 'Take you down' Brown for "One night stand". This is no "Superhuman". And hearing Keri and Chris sing sexy to another just feels odd to me because of the age difference. Keri's whole album is supposed to be about wanting a man not a boy, yet she has Chris Brown on a song!? Sure, he has a 6 pack and a penis I'm sure many girls have felt just as well as Rihanna felt his fist. But surely Keri could have gotten an older more seasoned artist who we can take seriously as a man to have featured on the song. Was Tank too busy to have recorded this song with her instead!?

"Lose control" sounds like a left over from The Forehead's Rated R and Loud sessions. Given that Stargate and Ester Dean are behind the song, it would not surprise me in the slightest if this turned out to be a song intended for the Bajan Klingon. You can hear "Te amo" and "What's my name?" as clear as day. It's not an entirely terrible joint. But it is such an unashamed Rihanna sounding song. Expect this to be a single, capitalizing on the success Rihanna's had with "What's my name?"

"Toy soldier" is hands down the best song on this album, and quite possibly one of the best songs Keri has ever done. As soon as the song opens with the piano and the distant drum line you know this song is going to be something special. Ester Dean continues her streak of penning killer songs by giving Keri a wonderfully written song about a fairy tale love gone wrong. Danja surprises the hell out of just about every fan by switching up his sound brilliantly and producing up a storm. And Keri gives one of her best vocal performances. Perfection. This really does need to be a single. And it's songs like this that make you so damn angry when Keri drops bullshit, because you know what she's capable of when she's given the right material.

Everybody pretty much tossed "Breaking point" aside. But I don't think the song is that bad. In fact, I rather like it! Timbaland and J-Roc's production is hot and throws things back to the days of doo wop nicely. But Keri comes up short for me, because when I hear this beat I just hear Beyoncé on it and absolutely killing it!

Timbaland and J-Roc throw it back yet again for their second contribution to the album; jumping a decade or two into the 80's with "Beautiful mistake". Once again we have a case of nice production, but Keri coming up short. Her vocals are just too monotone. There is no sass, energy or colour to her vocals. Timbaland should have given this to JoJo. She would have shut this the f**k down.

"Gimme what I want" is the love child of "Buyou" and "The way you love me". Keri obviously didn't feel she got her message across about wanting a n***a with money in one song, and declaring how good a n***a f**ks her in another - so therefore decided to make a song about both. As with Keri's past classy anthems, the beat is hot; but the song as a whole is just throwaway because there is nothing distinct about it. At least "The way you love me" had the killer hook.

The album closes with the beautiful "All the boys". As with "Toy soldier" you just shake your head at the nonsense Keri littered this album with when she's putting out quality and substantial records such as this. Stunning. John Legend did an amazing job with the songwriting, and helping enthuse Keri with some genuine feeling, something which No boys allowed is wholly void of, with the exception of a song or two.

I give Keri Hilson props for not feeling the need to write every single song on the album herself, and stepping aside to let a good song be a good song. So many songwriters turned artists feel the need to write everything just to prove a point. So it's nice there's no ego in Keri that feels the need to do the same. After all, the songs Keri didn't write herself are the ones which stand out the best. So Keri may want to re-evaluate her pen game, which seems unable to produce anything except nonsense stories about broke n***a's and wanting to get f**ked. Story of her life? Quite possibly.

Keri's sophomore effort is more consistent than In a perfect world... and the whole 'no boys allowed' concept is evident in every song. But the way it arcs across the album feels disjointed. Not just because there are more producers and songwriters in the mix this time around than on In a perfect world..., but because Keri doesn't seem to know herself what exactly she wants. Does she want a man? Or does she want some young thing to break her off? Does she want to ride in the hood? Or be the princess of pop radio? Keri will need to make some decisions about her sound and her style for her third album. Otherwise she will find herself in the dire position Ciara is in now: trying to find her sound amidst the pressure of trying to please the old fans, and sell enough units to stay signed.

No boys allowed shows that Keri does have potential. But the album also shows that she's perhaps not as sure of her own sound and music as we were led to believe prior to her releasing albums. Some time away to work on her pen game for other artists may help her for the third release.

Album highlights:
■ Pretty girl rock
■ The way you love me
■ Toy soldier J's fave
■ Beautiful mistake
■ All the boys

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