While R&B listeners knew who Keri Hilson was before 2009, she became a fully fledged star after her 2009 debut, In A Perfect World. While stardom surprises many artists, Keri acts like she’s been in the limelight for decades. Hilson’s sophomore album showcases this attitude as she toes the line between arrogance and confidence. With executive producers Timbaland and Polow Da Don backing the songstress on No Boys Allowed, the album has the potential for greatness: hit producers alongside a premier songwriter, yet as it all too often happens, the final project doesn’t work out that way.
If spins determines an artist’s success then Keri Hilson has already won. “Pretty Girl Rock” is plastered over the radio and has become an anthem for girls who aren’t short on ego. Lyrics like “Girls think I’m conceited ’cause I know I’m attractive / Don’t worry about what I think, why don’t you ask him?” capture the attitude of a Fabolous or Jadakiss track and translate it to R&B. The song’s beauty is that it isn’t geared towards men; it’s a women’s anthem that is rooted in independence from the opposite sex. Instead, it soars because of its superficiality. It’s arguably the defining moment on the album, a purely-Pop record that feels natural.
From there, the records either don’t fit the supposed theme to the album or they feel forced. With an album titled No Boys Allowed the fact that every guest spot the album sees is from a male is ironic. Furthermore the fact that the only duet on the album is with Chris Brown reduces the album’s bold title to laughable standards. The features are rather unnecessary, and besides a Rick Ross verse that has been a radio hit, all other songs are forgettable, even “Buyou” which features J. Cole.
The album’s biggest flaw is that Keri Hilson rarely seems highlighted. When you listen to the songs you think more of the artists that she has crafted hits for than the persona she created on In A Perfect World. While she has demonstrated that she can craft lasting hits, the majority of this album appears disposable. While a track like “Breaking Point” is some of her best work to date, No Boys Allowed doesn’t have enough of those moments. With that said, the album is catchy and will sure to continue to find tracks on the radio. Individually, there is radio potential among the songs, but they lack the cohesiveness necessary to create an album that aspires to be great.
No Boys Allowed doesn’t match its polished predecessor success a whole project. The songwriting feels more in line with her R&B/Pop peers than anything else. While she competes in a generation that she helped write, she struggles to define herself as an artist. Hilson’s songwriting cannot be questioned, but her vocal abilities, often fail to capture the show when needed, and her content gets repetitive. When you hear the name Keri Hilson she expect work to follow that changes a genre. Unfortunately on No Boys Allowed she crafts an album filled with repeated ironies.