The migration from songwriter to singer is a long, winding road. We've witnessed the current successes of Ne-Yo [click to read] and The-Dream and would like to believe that many female songwriters can equally sustain careers as performers. The fact of the matter is that the ability to craft a hit single for someone else doesn't always translate to the stage or studio for the person holding the pen.
Keri Hilson comes from a history of female songwriters like Diane Warren and Kandi Burruss who have either taken shots as performers and somewhat succeeded (Burruss) or have written songs and kept it there (Warren). Let's also be mindful that a pretty face sells records. So on paper, Keri Hilson wasn't kidding when she felt like she lives In a Perfect World... Here is a woman, easy on the eyes, who was responsible for the only Omarion hit we remember ("Ice Box") and successfully reviving Britney Spears with her comeback single "Gimme More." Plus her airy vocals have blessed hooks for Timbaland and Nas, and she's transformed into a video vixen for Usher [click to read]. Sounds like a foolproof plan to give this obvious talent a shot, but why does she keep missing the mark?
In 2007 we heard our first Keri Hilson song, the unreleased Snoop Dogg-assisted [click to read] "Happy Juice," a musical concoction that, like the actual drink, was sweet with a kick. It was an excellent pop song with its moaning hook and haunting synths, but could have been handed to Danity Kane (and actually have been released).
In a Perfect World... [Interscope Records] could easily pass as a demo for Hilson to shop to higher echelon performers. The fundamental difference is that while some harbor rough cuts with friends from around the way, Hilson has cameos that read like a Grammy roster. And why not, Keri is a well-respected songwriter. Any one of her artist friends would lend a helping hand to her debut, and they have, but not in the way she anticipated.
The popping "Intro" sets the stage for Hilson boasting her talent, as she opens with 'Interscope gave me the deal as soon as they got word of me.' The mid-level hit "Turnin' Me On" with Lil Wayne [click to listen] follows, and works hard-hitting claps with manipulated vocals that lead into "Get Your Money Up," where if you're not paying attention, you'd still think you were listening to the previous track. The album flows in no particular order, but the cuts follow a common theme of love, love, and more love. In many instances, Hilson gets lost in thorough production ("Intuition", "Change Me") with the exception of the Kanye West and Ne-Yo homerun "Knock You Down".
Despite the fact that Hilson is no balladeer, "Make Love" makes for a decent song (sans the video), while other slow jams like "Slow Dance" and "Tell Him the Truth" sound like mid-'90s throwbacks. Interscope was wise in pre-releasing "Return the Favor" and "Energy", because they built momentum for an album that quite frankly doesn't live up to the hype that's been hugging it for the past two years. Hilson's actual demo "Where Did He Go" closes the album, and it's understood that In a Perfect World... is a perfect album missing one key component: a solid performer. As Miss Keri recently dropped her "Turnin' Me On" remix with T-Pain [click to read], blasting every girl in the game with longevity, let's hope her next attempt will give her credence for firing off, because In a Perfect World... is not convincing enough.