After a lengthy break on the bench, ‘TGJ Replay’ is back!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest retrospective segment – a written quest, if you will, to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits. As this week saw the release of ‘Point of No Return,’ the 6th album of R&B chanteuse Keyshia Cole, we thought it would be the perfect time to reminisce over her catalog and revisit our favorite album of hers – ‘Just Like You.’
We’ll meet you on the other side:
By the time late 2006 rolled around, Keyshia Cole had already made an impressive stamp in R&B. Coming on the scene at the height of the “crunk” and “snap” movement with her “Mary J. Blige-lite” debut album, 2005’s ‘The Way It Is,’ the Bay-born beauty was making quite the wave along the genre’s musical shores with songs like ‘I Just Want It To Be Over’ and ‘I Should’ve Cheated.’ Despite starting off as a slow cooker, the release of its top-performing single ‘Love’ sent the album scorching up R&B charts and well on its way to platinum status.
The journey to platinum was certainly due, by no small part, to a top rated BET reality show titled after her inaugural project. Putting to ease growing concern about Cole’s “attitude” (which had earned many a negative review from critics, fellow artists, and fans alike), the reality show not only helped introduce her in a new way to her widest audience yet, but also hoisted anticipation for her sophomore album to its highest heights.
The answer to that call came aboard an assembly of the day’s hottest producers and songwriters including Rodney Jerkins, Scott Storch, Bryan Michael-Cox, The Runners, Mario Winans Missy Elliott, and more to craft a body of work christened ‘Just Like You.’
The confidence exuded from the album’s lead single, ‘Let It Go,’ demonstrated that Keyshia was playing approximately no games with her sophomore release. Tapping rap’s two biggest femcees, Lil Kim & Missy Elliott, to play co-stars over the Biggie Smalls sampled tune, the song’s formula of female empowerment – cloaked in an instantly recognizable groove – would prove itself just the recipe Cole needed to kick off her second era.
Skyrocketing to the upper tier of the Billboard Hot 100, the tune’s #7 peak became (and still remains) her highest chart ranking as a leading act. As the success of ‘Let It Go’ acted as undoubted indication of music lovers’ anticipation for the project, September 2007 brought with it the release of ‘Just Like You’ to critical and commercial fanfare. Selling a whopping 281,000 copies in its first week (over 4 times the amount of its predecessor’s first week numbers), the album would boast a #2 debut on Billboard 200.
Signaling a defeat of the dreaded ‘sophomore slump,’ Keyshia would continue to win over fans and naysayers alike with a collection of visuals that further demonstrated her artistic maturity. While thematically still reminiscent of (and drawing many comparisons to) the work of idol Mary J. Blige, Cole’s improvement on the fashion and style front would see her slowly but surely edge into her own in every right.
Arguably, the most glaring evidence of said maturity would be found in fan favorite ‘Heaven Sent.’ The follow-up to the heart-wrenching, #1 R&B ballad ‘I Remember,’ ‘Heaven Sent’ would live up to its titling for fans who helped elevate the tune to #1 on R&B charts for a whopping nine week reign. The accomplishment would give the singer her third chart-topper on that tally from ‘Just Like You’ alone and was congratulated with news of two Grammy nominations in ‘Best R&B Song’ and ‘Best R&B Female Vocal Performance’ at the 2008 Grammy Awards. The nominations followed the previous year’s nods for ‘Best Rap/Sung Collaboration’ (for ‘Let It Go’) and ‘Best Contemporary R&B Album.’
If ever there was proof that Blige’s successor may very well be on her way, it would lie in ‘Just Like You.’
Ask us and we’ll tell you that ‘Just Like You’ is Cole’s ‘must have’ album.
The set undeniably boasts a collage of some of modern R&B’s finest offerings and managed to effectively balance enough radio friendly material to maintain currency, but still impart tunes like ‘I Remember’ and ‘Let It Go’ that could easily be spun nearly a decade later. Attributes that we’re sure helped push it to its double platinum status today.
While we’re on the fence about ‘Point of No Return,’ we do hope that when Keysh returns to the drawing board for album #7 that she returns to the formula that made ‘Just Like You’ so great. Yes, we’re still bumping ‘Didn’t I Tell You (ft. Too $hort)’ and ‘Got To Get My Heart Back’ over here at TGJ HQ, but we always want to know: