Album: Kelly Rowland

Simply Deep, Columbia

Beyoncé Knowles's forthcoming solo album is the most eagerly awaited of the Destiny's Child spin-off projects, but until that arrives, this debut from her colleague Kelly Rowland will doubtless suffice. As it happens, Beyoncé's little sister Solange co-writes and appears on the title track, where the two women's multi-tracked vocals overlap like waves rippling up the shore. Elsewhere, the hit duet with Nelly, "Dilemma", is the most engaging of urban/hip-hop collaborations, Kelly's slinky tones dovetailing nicely with the rapper's slippery delivery. On the whole the album sticks closely to the standard urban-diva formula, mixing garage twitchers such as "Can't Nobody" and "Love/Hate" with the usual billing and cooing on ballads such as "Haven't Told You". But it's all done with style and intelligence, whether she's luxuriating in the loneliness of "Everytime You Walk out that Door" or evoking the momentum of the first flush of love in "Train on a Track". "Strange Places" displays Rowland's gift for apt metaphors in lines such as "Baby sits there, he's got a two-way and a cell phone/ She's always happy when she gets a page/ But it's not enough, girl it's not a home/ Real love isn't digital, isn't physical". But the strongest track is the single "Stole", a lament for unfulfilled potential, especially that of smart kids victimised by dumb thug culture: "He was down for his brother/ Respectful to his mother/ A good boy/ But good don't get attention."