For all the major moves she made this time around on her second album, K. Michelle still can't break away from the shackles of her contemporaries.
There is no denying that K. Michelle has come into her own, despite being a reality television star. Her debut album, Rebellious Soul, was brilliant due to the simple fact that it defied logic: it was a rather solid album from a singer that focused her talents on televised drama and arguments for way too long. It also proved that with dedication and talent, it isn’t hard for a reality star to use their ‘fame’ to demonstrate true talent. And for me, even though the album wasn’t perfect due to the amount of comparisons one could make to Keyshia Cole, as well as Michelle’s annoying habit of over-singing a song, it was still a pretty good debut. Now with a musical and her own reality show, K Michelle had to step up musically in order to make a lasting impression. Cue the album Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart, her sophomore album which is clearly designed to show K. Michelle isn’t just another flash-in-the-pan reality star with dreams of a successful music career. And if you listen to the album from that perspective, it largely succeeds at proving that.
From the beginning, K. Michelle is out to prove that she sings more than Hip Hop Soul by opening with “Judge Me”, a big band, traditional vocal exercise about leaving her alone because only God can judge her. It’s performed extremely well by Michelle, and the production doesn’t hold back with a grand set of sweeping horns and a beat that gives Michael Bublé’s sound an urban feel. It’s a shame that the production is almost muted and then builds up into nothing as the song fades out. Similar production missteps are made on the following track, “Love ‘Em All”, where she sings about being the heartbreaker. The song itself is good enough despite the boring lyrics (“Maybe one day I’ll settle down / But for now, I’ll just play around”), but the first 51 seconds of the track give you the feeling that this could be a beautiful rock ballad. It wouldn’t have been out of Michelle’s vocal depth; however the song just becomes another typical R&B song that isn’t a car crash. “Something About The Night” has the right amount of nostalgia, but it falters slightly with uneven production and an extremely boring chorus. But it doesn’t distract from the fact that K. Michelle can sing songs with a BPM fasted than 80.
But the worst parts of the album are the parts that sound very much like someone else. Of course, no K. Michelle album would be complete without a Keyshia Cole ballad, which appears in the form of “Cry”. It isn’t very heart-wrenching, and that isn’t because K. Michelle can’t sing; she does so much of that on this song. It’s because the card she plays (that being the ‘Angry lover who seeks revenge’) is a topic we’ve heard countless times, and there is no way K. Michelle can make it sound interesting. It just isn’t. Yet, when things couldn’t get any worse, they do. “How Do You Know” is probably one of the most dull ballads in recent memory due to the fact that everything is wrong. The simple piano that has a stale ending? Boring. The Broadway-style performance that doesn’t ever have its big moment? Boring. The entire song drags and never picks up. Unlike “I Don’t Like Me” on her previous album, which worked due to her self-critical lyrics and polished production, “How Do You Know” sounds like a failed Mariah moment that had too much effort put into it. “Build A Man” has a great intro, but then it turns into an Ariana Grande demo that should’ve been axed from this album. I understand that it shows her willingness to change it up, but this is not her song, nor her style.
However, there are some tracks that work from start to finish. Take for example; “Going Under”, an up-tempo track with production that shares some similarities to Ciara’s music pre-Fantasy Ride. The song discusses Michelle’s need to be in love without sounding too cheesy. Rather than sing about the past and previous relationships, she focuses on falling in love now and wonders if anyone ever will. It helps that she acknowledges her flaws as well as the fact she doesn’t over-sing the song either. Another amazing standout is “Maybe I Should Call”. The song focuses on Michelle’s feelings for a man that has a family and her regret for putting herself out there in case she gets hurt. It’s rather confessional and to the point. “Miss You, Goodbye” is perfectly pulled from the '80s with a distorted electric piano and a simple beat, as well as a simple yet developed chorus and great vocals from Michelle, who discusses her love/hate relationship with an ex. The single, most surprising moment on her album, though, has to be “God I Get It”. It will likely be challenging for most of her fan base because it’s a country song. But that’s why it works: K. Michelle has no issue with baring her soul and coming clean about herself, which is why it’s great that she decided to close the album with this song. If only songs like this were more common throughout the album, this might have been her defining moment in her career.
At the end of the day, the only statement that this album set out to make was this: K Michelle has progressed exponentially from her first effort at a music career. It is true to say that she has a great deal, but there can be a weak case for the opposing side. K. Michelle has taken huge strides in diversifying her musical tastes and her subject matter, but she suffers with the same issues she had on her last album. Granted, those problems are almost irrelevant when compared to her debut, but it may just be the reason she will always be plain okay to some and pretty good to others, but never amazing or perfect. If Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart is a step in a different direction, then K Michelle’s done that, even if it isn’t a complete step.