The Way It Is

Studio Album by released in 2005

The Way It Is review

R&B is a wonderful style of music and it is wonderful to see so many new and coming artists assertive to keeping it alive. However, every year, several new R&B acts come out and just are very average or don't possess anything spectacular the caliber of say Alicia Keys, Usher, R. Kelly, and etc. But Keyshia Cole proves that she deserves all-star R&B treatment with her riveting debut, The Way It Is.

Cole had a hand in the writing of just about every track, and she has a number of major players – Kanye West, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, Mya), E-Poppi (Missy Elliott, Destiny's Child) – in her corner. With only a couple exceptions, The Way It Is is about the ugly parts of a romantic relationship, so there's little room left for upbeat material. From the opener, (I Just Want It) To Be Over, the album seems to be set up like a linear narrative about a crumbling relationship, but it doesn't quite play out that way, with the scenes shuffled out of order. (Love, one of the positive songs, comes after the song where the punk gets dumped and before the song where he's called out for changing.) None of it's all that profound, but Cole sells it all extremely well, especially on I Should Have Cheated, where she tires of an accusing and hypocritical lover. Cole's voice is sweet and ringing, like a wiser version of Lil' Mo who has had to weather a tremendous amount of drama. Luther Vandross-penned Never with a show-stopping cameo by Eve, her hit song from the Barbershop 2 soundtrack, is included.

Born on the other side of the California Bay – the often tough and troubled streets of Oakland – Keyshia aspired from an early age to make music her life, so much so that she started working the angles while still a preteen. Following Bay Area opportunities, she began contemplating a leap for the big time: Los Angeles. So when she discovered that her then-boyfriend had cheated on her, she immediately packed her bags and never looked back. In Los Angeles she quickly impressed many with her golden soprano voice and thus made plenty of industry contacts, among them A&M Records president Ron Fair, who immediately signed her to a solo deal. When A&M/Interscope was ready to release The Way It Is in the spring of 2005, Keyshia found herself positioned alongside fellow young urban female singers like Brandy, Monica, and Beyonce. Yet Keyshia had an edge over her peers – a street edge. Having grown up in Oakland and lived there most of her young life, she knew life wasn't all glitter and gold like it was in Hollywood. She knew the streets, and that inner-city viewpoint informs many of her songs, which are generally a bit rougher and less naive than those of your typical young female urban vocalist.

It’s been a long road for Keyshia, but it’s her powerful voice – a bell-like instrument whose soaring clarity is topped off with a tantalizing touch of soulful grit – that’s carried her through, not to mention the diminutive singer’s personal combination of sugar, spice, sass and sex appeal, along with a solid-steel spine. With production by Kanye West, Krucial Keys, Ron Fair and Chink Santana, Keyshia’s dreams have been realized. And while she may not be as deep as Lauryn Hill or Alicia Keys, Keyeshia is set apart from her wannabe R&B princess. Don't sleep on Keyshia Cole, she is very talented and is a star in the making.