Kelly Rowland's Ms. Kelly

Destiny's neglected child lets her dimmer light shine

Let's face it: When it comes to the post-breakup ripples triggered by ball-busting chart-toppers Destiny's Child, Kelly Rowland could never possibly approach the success (or radiant hotness) of Beyoncé. But Ms. Kelly succeeds on a smaller scale, starting with lead single "Like This," an immaculate, balmy display of pop-r&b feminism, not to mention Rowland's first real attempt at exploring her sexuality. Kelly's fragile voice is often tender and usually dangerously whispery, as on "Ghetto," a wholeheartedly successful rip of Destiny's Child's "Soldier"; still, the (frequent) slow jams here are technically pleasing as they ascend the rungs of womanhood and romantic relapse (see "Still in Love With My Ex"). The more manufactured pop productions (courtesy of Scott Storch, Polow Da Don, and others) are predict- ably saccharine—see dreadful album closer "This Is Love"—but "Show," a monstrous duet with Tank, capably sketches out a pair of either horny teen- agers or deprived adults. Though the grass is always greener on Beyoncé's side— the weave longer, the sex better—Ms. Kellystill showcases a star who shines brightest in the shadows.

 
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