Here I Am is Kelly Rowland's third studio album that was released on July 22, 2011 by Universal Motown and Universal Music Group.
- I'm Dat Chick
- Work It Man (featuring Lil Playy)
- Motivation (featuring Lil Wayne)
- Lay It On Me (featuring Big Sean)
- Feeling Me Right Now
- Turn It Up
- All Of The Night (featuring Rico Love)
- Keep It Between Us
- Commander (featuring David Guetta)
- Down For Whatever (featuring The WAV.s)
During her 2008 performances at T4 on the Beach in Weston-Super-Mare, United Kingdom, Kelly Rowland was exposed to British bands and live festival music. It inspired her to pursue a new sound for her then untitled third album.
She then travelled the South of France for vacation in the summer of 2008 where she was exposed to dance music. It was here that she met French DJ David Guetta and heard the foundations of "When Love Takes Over", a song that would leave a lasting impression on the singer.
After falling in love with the song, Rowland would take it back to London to write and record the vocals with Australian songwriters, The Nervo Twins; however, Columbia Records were not impressed with the new sound and the record was left unfinished until it was rediscovered by Guetta, when compiling his" One Love" album.
In March 2009, it was revealed that Rowland was parting ways with Columbia Records. Speaking of her decision to leave, she said, "as a solo artist, I felt the need to explore new directions, new challenges, and new freedoms outside my comfort zone and my friends and family at Columbia have been incredibly understanding about my evolution. I want to thank everyone at Columbia for the love and support they've shown and I will never forget how many good times we've had over the years."
It was also announced in March that Guetta was releasing "When Love Takes Over", his collaboration with Rowland. The song went on to be a worldwide success for the duo.
Jason Lipshutz of Billboard said "the success comes at an intriguing time in Rowland's career", having noted that she had landed a hosting job on Bravo's The Fashion Show and was in between labels.
In October 2009, it was suggested that the success of the single had made Rowland consider signing a new record deal with EMI Music.
Despite earlier claims, Rowland told Entertainment Weekly in 2010 that she didn't leave Columbia Records of her own accord. She was dropped because her previous album, "Ms. Kelly" was not commercially successful.
In May 2010, speculation of Rowland's new record ended when an official press release revealed that she had signed to Universal Motown Records.
It was whilst recording within the studios with Guetta that Rowland caught the attention of the head of Universal Motown, Sylvia Rhone, which led to the new deal.
On the decision to go with Rhone's label, Rowland said: "they have really embraced me and have set me up to succeed. I decided, after careful thought, to sign with Universal Motown not only because of their track record of success, but also because they truly put their artists first".
"Here I Am" has a distinctly different sound to Rowland's previous albums.
"Simply Deep" followed a rock–dance sound, while Ms. Kelly featured an urban sound; however, on her third album, there are a lot of up-tempo tracks.
The album is tailored specifically towards individual markets, with the US version featuring more traditional R&B and pop records, while the international version of the album features more of an "up-tempo dancey" sound.
The earliest indication that Rowland had begun her third studio album came in 2008 following her performance at T4 on the Beach.
During the interview she gave to The Daily Star, she had approached Irish indie band The Script for a duet whilst another indie band, The Guillemots, gave Rowland one of their songs to work with.
Following her leave from Columbia Records, she began work on her third album despite being without a record label for over one year.
The recording sessions took place in Los Angeles, New York City and Miami, Florida with Rowland specifically wanting a wide range of songs to choose from.
One of the first people she actually entered the studios with was David Guetta. He co-wrote and produced the song, "Commander", a song with themes of controlling destiny, taking control and being sexy.
Rowland said of the song, "I hope to see women singing the song like they're in charge. It's important to know that we are commanders who have the power to shape our own destiny."
Rico Love wrote the song and, according to Rowland, had credits on around half of the album.
"Commander" features on the album as track number nine, while its urban remix featuring Nelly features on the deluxe edition as track fourteen. Guetta also had a hand in co-producing "Forever and a Day" with Danish producer Jonas Jeberg. The song was written by Sam Watters, Andre Merrit, Jeberg and Rowland.
During the album's New York listening party in June 2010, "Forever and Day" was described by Honey Mag as a display of Rowland's "vocals" with "long-winded riffs and sky-high notes."
It was released as a single in some international markets in September 2010. Aside from Guetta, Rowland was reunited with The Nervo Twins who previously helped Rowland to write "When Love Takes Over."
R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo was also involved in the album and wrote three songs which were produced by StarGate. When describing the process of working with him, Rowland said, "Ne-Yo asked me what I wanted to talk about, and I replied 'I'm in a different space. Change is very comfortable for me, and I'm happy where I am'."
The first of these records, "Shake Them Haters Off", was originally intended to be a single in the US. It is an "up-tempo" and fun record with lyrics such as "Its like a job I that I never get a break from/because haters never take a vacation."
Another collaboration titled "Grown Ass Woman" (later changed to "Grown Woman") was described by Rowland as her favorite song on the album. Ne-Yo conceptualized the song in a three-minute conversation with Rowland, where she told him she wanted a record where she could claim "I'm grown!"
According to Janine Simon from Honey Mag, on "Grown [Ass] Woman" Rowland digs "through old pictures from the Destiny's Child days reflecting on how far she has come yet how 'Grown and silly' she still is." It would later be released as one of the album's two US lead singles.
The pair collaborated on a third song, "Heaven and Earth", described by Simon as a ballad using imagery to demonstrate a "sonic portrait, painted with flecks of sentiment; a picture of what the singer believes is what 'we deserve as a people'."
According to Rowland, one of these three records was also recorded as a duet featuring Ne-Yo's vocals. None of these songs made the album apart from "Heaven and Earth", which features as song number eleven on the deluxe edition.
Ester Dean and Dr. Luke also worked on the album, respectively writing and producing the other US lead single "Rose Colored Glasses." The song's lyrics portray "the issues that arise when one plays the fool in a relationship."
During Rowland's concert series for iheartradio, she took time out to reflect on the song. She recalled, "The first time I heard the song it made me think of all of the relationships where I had to wear rose-colored glasses."
It was also revealed that, during the studio recording session with Dean, she began to cry at the thought of all the "toxic relationships" she had been in "where she needed to leave."
Later in an interview with The Belfast Telegraph, Rowland said that the song had taken its toll on her. She said "It brought back a few memories, and when I recorded it I cried so much my vocal chords got swollen."
Dean also worked alongside Rowland during last minute studio sessions with producer Tricky Stewart, which spawned a female empowerment song called "I'm Dat Chick".
Although "Rose Colored Glasses" was omitted from the US track listing, Dean's song "I'm Dat Chick" made the album appearing as the opening song.
Written as a "confidence-boosting" anthem, "I'm Dat Chick" is built around an urban-electro club beat designed to get "even shy women to come out of their shells" according to Rap-Up magazine.
Meanwhile, Dean's third contribution, "Lay It on Me", features rapper Big Sean and centers on an up-tempo R&B melody with 808s and high NRG-led production. It features a "tinkling piano" melody and light R&B beat.
"Take Everything", another song recorded for the album, is one of several songs written by Love and produced by Jim Jonsin and was the first record that Rowland recorded with the duo. Jonsin praised his studio sessions with Rowland, describing the new sound as Donna Summer-esque.
During an interview with 103.5 KTU FM, she accidentally revealed she had collaborated with Pitbull, but it wasn't until August 15, 2010 during an interview with 97.9 The Box FM, that it was revealed that he features on "Take Everything".
Another song written and produced by the duo is titled "Motivation" featuring Lil Wayne. It was released as the album's lead single in April 2011.
Speaking of how the record came about, Rowland said: "'Motivation' came about when I was in the studio with [producers] Jim Jonsin and Rico Love, and we kind of were just vibing. I told Rico I wanted something really sexy ... and he came up with 'Motivation' along with Jim. It turned into this amazing record... I played [ 'Motivation' for Lil Wayne ] and he got on it, and it was just as simple as that." The racy lyrics center around Rowland asking her man to use his hands all over her body, and are accompanied by a "synth-saturated beat" produced by Jonsin.
In terms of instruments, "Motivation" uses sparse keyboard notes, programmed beats and pulsing synths in the chorus. Wayne adds a rap verse complementing Rowland's seductive suggestions, using the kitchen and a car as metaphors for sex.
A press release also revealed she had worked with Salaam Remi, something which Love confirmed when he said he had worked on a song with Remi called "Love Is the Greatest" that he hoped would make the album.
Of these recordings, only "Motivation" made the album appearing as song number three, while its Rebel Rock Remix appears on the deluxe edition as track thirteen.
In another interview Rowland told the Daily Star that she had spoken to will.i.am about working on the album and was also keen to get Sean "Diddy" Combs on the album.
Shondrae 'Bangladesh' Crawford who is best known for producing "Diva" and "Video Phone" by Rowland's ex-bandmate and close friend Beyoncé, revealed to Rap-Up that he had also been in the studio with Rowland.
Of the collaborations, Bangladesh said, "the music that we've done is just hard, it's edgy, but it's still sexy, and it's not raunchy ... What I like to do when I go in with artists, I like to recreate and reinvent 'em, even if they didn't need that."
Another song recorded for the album was the Brian Kennedy-produced dance song "On and On" which was written by Kennedy, Merritt, Rowland and Robert Allen.
"On and On" was used in episode fifteen of the MTV network reality TV series "The Hills." Both Bangladesh and Kennedy productions are omitted from the album.
Other studio sessions took place with Akon, while new writing sessions were planned with season eight "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert; however, no songs from either Akon or Lambert appear on the US track listing.
In September 2010, it was also confirmed that Stewart's fellow songwriting and production partner, The-Dream, had joined his studio sessions with Rowland.
Rap-Up reported that The-Dream had been staying in New York City where he was penning songs for Rowland to record.
On September 5, 2010, songwriter and producer Jermaine Dupri, revealed in his "Living the Life" series that he was in the studio with Rowland recording material for the album.
In the second of these videos, songwriter Bryan-Michael Cox was also present during sessions with Rowland and Dupri.
It was later revealed that the opportunity and desire to schedule more recording sessions with the duo led to the album's pushback into 2011; however, none of the tracks with Dupri, Cox or The-Dream made the album.
In January 2011, during a trip to London, it was revealed that Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross would all appear on the album.
Although by the time the track listing was revealed, only Wayne's song features while rappers Mane and Ross were replaced with new songs, respectively featuring Big Sean, Lil Playy and Love.
Love features on the 2 Live Crew-sampling "All of the Night". Using elements of "One and One", the steamy duet sees "Rowland comparing her bedroom activities to music."
Love also co-wrote and co-produced another R&B midtempo for the album titled "Feeling Me Right Now", where the lyrics describe what it is like to find "self-love" in the club.
The final Love-penned song which appears on the album is titled "Each Other" and was co-written/co-produced by Souldiggaz.
Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins scores two songs on the album, including the Lil Playy-assisted "Work It Man". Beginning with a strong piano riff, the song picks up its tempo resulting in a "speaker-banger." The lyrics see Rowland telling listeners what kind of man she wants.
"Turn It Up", another Darkchild production, features a synth-heavy production with lyrics about having a good time and allowing karma to deal with a cheating partner.
Joseph "Lonny" Bereal helped Rowland and two others to co-write "Keep It Between Us", a song that appears as the eighth song on the album.
In February 2011, during New York Fashion Week, Rowland confirmed that she also had sessions arranged with RedOne, which led to the conception of the album's tenth song, a Eurodance song called "Down for Whatever", co-produced by The WAV.s and Jimmy Joker.
Rowland revealed in August 2010 that she would be releasing a different, "more up-tempo dancey" version of the album in international territories after she experienced more success with dance music internationally.
With the album beginning production from as early as late 2008, she completed a number of songs with a wide range of producers, some of which did not make the US version of the album.
Rowland confirmed in July 2011 that the European track listing would consist of leftover songs from the album's recording sessions as well as songs from the US version and some newly recorded songs.
The international version of "Here I Am" features the original ten songs from the standard edition plus: "Heaven & Earth" and "Each Other" from the deluxe edition, as well as "When Love Takes Over" (with Guetta), "Rose Colored Glasses", "Motivation (Diplo Remix)", "Forever and a Day" and "What a Feeling" (with Alex Gaudino), all excluded from the US edition of the album.
"Here I Am" peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling 77,000 copies during its first week.
As of January 2013, the album has sold 241,692 copies in the United States.
"Here I Am" received mixed reviews from music critics.
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 64, based on sixteen reviews, indicating "generally favourable reviews".
Allmusic editor Andy Kellman gave "Here I Am" four out of five stars and complimented its appeal to "hip-hop and R&B" radio, adding that "Although very eclectic taste is required to appreciate in full, this is clearly Rowland's brightest, most confident album yet."
Entertainment Weekly's Adam Markovitz gave the album a B rating and called it "a solid if unambitious set of medium-hot finger snappers."
Simon Gage from the Daily Express called Here I Am a "jumping" collection of up-tempo songs comparable to Donna Summer, but "broadly much tougher and maybe just a tad over-processed."
Gage added that Rowland could include "Here I Am" amongst her other career highlights such as her singles "Work" and "When Love Takes Over" as well as her judging role on series 8 of "The X Factor (UK)."
The A.V. Club's Evan Rytlewski called Here I Am a declaration of Rowland's liberation. Rytlewski attributed the album's appeal to the producers, who he felt "drove forward the sound" and prevented Rowland from taking "songs too seriously" as done on Simply Deep. He concluded his review by also praising Rowland's choice to include elements of dance music.
Elyssa Garnder from USA Today gave the album a mixed review, stating that "Rowland traverses the gamut of predictable romantic scenarios prettily enough... alas, Here I Am proves a lot more cautious than that dare suggests."
Jon Caramanica from the New York Times called the album both smart and surprising, writing: "Here I Am is something much more confident and more surprising [than expected]. It's a chewy and moody R&B album on which Ms. Rowland sounds assured and vital. Or, at minimum, is made to sound that way... Her vocals are stacked thick and placed loud in the mix, but while they're noticeable, they're not particularly notable apart from their arrangements."
Despite finding some of its material unoriginal, Ken Capobianco of The Boston Globe commented that "Rowland makes up for her limited range with expressiveness throughout," while noting that the songs are centered around "self-affirmation and confidence." He ended his review by stating that the album's closing track "Down for Whatever" had a "pounding groove" which should have been the sentiment for the rest of the album.
Allison Stewart from The Washington Post commented that "Here I Am" would not establish a personality for Rowland, but it did not matter as she was in a place in her career where she did not need one. Described as a "perfectly likeable club-centric R&B" offering, Stewart said Rowland makes the most of the "killer beats and a flat affect" trends in the industry.
Comments echoed by Michaelangelo Matos from the Los Angeles Times' whose scathing review criticised the "bland material," particularly noting "secondhand beats" and awkward lyrics.
Slant Magazine's Jesse Cataldo also called the album mediocre. Cataldo said "the skimpy roster [of rappers] makes Here I Am sound distressingly bare, and depressingly short on surprises and diversion. Rowland makes up for this by pushing the sex angle, but this pose never seems entirely natural."