Keyshia Cole + Keri Hilson
Chicago Theatre; Fri 15
“I would like to introduce a sexier side of me,” coos Keyshia Cole on her latest, A Different Me. Shifting from victim to vixen, the urban R&B siren moves beyond the ghetto fabulousness and thug love lessons of her past, reimagining herself with a touch of class.
As beat hustlers for hire shift their weight behind an ever-widening circle of artists, more opportunities arise for everyone to reinvent themselves. Of course, this works better for some (Beyon…er, Sasha Fierce) than others (Chris Cornell). In Cole’s case, the elegant about-face is just the latest in an evolving story line; her trials and triumphs are already followed by millions on the BET reality show Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is. The intrigue lies in the struggle. And while the top-rated program has kept the Californian in the public eye, we wish she’d save the drama for her albums.
Keri Hilson doesn’t have the same problem on her unrestrained playa-baiting debut, In a Perfect World… The aspiring soul diva eagerly fronts with the kind of confidence that only comes from an album overstuffed with guests like Kanye, Ne-Yo and Lil Wayne. Similar to Cole, Hilson’s persona is carefully calculated—guided by ubiquitous producer Timbaland.
Though the Georgia native is a gifted songwriter in her own right—having already penned hits for Britney Spears and Usher—she’s still a star in the making, as her glossy sheen and ever-present smile reminds us. No doubt she’ll inevitably undergo a maturation once she’s exhausted her initial charm. But Hilson’s already in a good spot to do just that—equally equipped to write vapid, hooky mall-pop or booty-bouncing club staples.