Simply Deep is Kelly Rowland's debut solo studio album that was released on October 22, 2002 by Columbia Records and Music World Entertainment.
- Stole 4:03
- Dilemma (with Nelly) 4:48
- Haven't Told You 3:42
- Can't Nobody 4:04
- Love/Hate 3:07
- Simply Deep (featuring Solange Knowles) 3:22
- (Love Lives In) Strange Places 3:31
- Obsession 3:35
- Heaven 3:58
- Past 12 3:28
- Everytime You Walk Out That Door 4:08
- Train On A Track 3:43
- Beyond Imagination 3:21
- Make U Wanna Stay 4:08
Kelly Rowland launched her singing career with all-female R&B group Destiny's Child in the late 1990s.
While recording their third studio album, "Survivor" in late 2000, the band announced that members of the group would disband for a short period of time to produce solo albums in the coming years, which they hoped would boost interest in Destiny's Child. The idea of individual releases emanated from the group's manager, Mathew Knowles.
With different types of music for each member to produce, the albums were not intended to compete on the charts as Destiny's Child's management strategically planned to stagger the release of each group member's album to maximize sales.
While Michelle Williams became the first to release a debut solo album, "Heart to Yours" in April 2002, Beyonce Knowles debuted on the big screen, starring in the comedy film, "Austin Powers in Goldmember" and began recording her solo debut album, "Dangerously in Love".
Meanwhile, Rowland collaborated with rapper Nelly on the song "Dilemma" as a solo artist. The single originally appeared on his album "Nellyville", becoming a worldwide number-one hit that year, allowing her label Columbia Records to advance the release date of "Simply Deep" from 2003 to late 2002.
In order to capitalize on the success of "Dilemma", Rowland was forced to complete the album within a month.
The recording sessions for "Simply Deep" took place at several recording studios, including Studio 353, The Hit Factory and Sound-on-Sound Studio in New York City, Stankonia Recording Studio in Atlanta, Audio Vision Recording Studios in Miami Beach, and The Enterprise in Burbank, Henson Recording Studios and The Record Plant in Los Angeles, Heeba Jeeba Studios in Sherman Oaks and the Real FM Sound and Nature's Finest Studios in Hollywood.
Several record producers and songwriters collaborated with Rowland on the album, including Damon Elliott, Mark J. Feist, Rob Fusari, Rich Harrison, Teron Beal, Billy Mann, Damon Sharpe, and Robert "Big Bert" Smith, the latter who contributed "Love/Hate," a song co-written by fellow singer Brandy.
Solange Knowles, Beyoncé's younger sister, wrote and co-produced three songs on "Simply Deep."
Rowland felt pressured by high expectations due to Destiny's Child and their huge success. She revealed: "It was a challenge and I did that creatively and vocally. I was very nervous, but I came through with flying colors because of my family and, of course, Destiny's Child. There were days in the studio where I would run out, like, 'I'm frustrated! I don't wanna do this!' And they would calm me and tell me that everything was gonna be okay. I got through it because of them."
Rowland eventually overcame her fears during the process as her newfound independence offered her an opportunity to branch out and try new things. In fact, she co-wrote three songs on the album and came up with the vocal arrangements for several tracks.
Musically, the album took Rowland's solo work further into a pop-rock and R&B sound, which she described as a "weird fusion [of] a little bit of Sade and a little bit of rock."
"Simply Deep" peaked at #12 on the Billboard 200, selling 77,000 units during its first week of release. It also peaked at #3 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
The album was certified gold by the RIAA and went on to sell more than 600,000 copies in the United States.
"Simply Deep" received generally mixed to lukewarm reviews from most music critics.
British morning newspaper The Independent gave the album a generally favorable review, writing that "on the whole the album sticks closely to the standard urban-diva formula, mixing garage twitchers 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"."
Lisa Verrico of The Times stated "on first listen, Simply Deep does everything but live up to its title. It sounds like a shallow stroll through the poppier end of urban music [...] But give it another listen and [it] does grow on you if you’re looking for an easy-on-the-ear album. It is a pleasant listen."
Joy Dunbar, writing for BBC Music, noted that while "the albums main weakness is that it tries to offer too much diversity and Kelly tries too hard to stand outside her former incarnation," it was a must-have for fans of R&B music, adding: "Simply Deep endeavours to demonstrate another side of Kelly Rowland, as a songwriter and an independent solo artist [...] The in frequent high points make this a must for your collection."
In her review for "Simply Deep", Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian wrote, "Rowland is no longer a mere backing vocalist for Beyoncé Knowles. But while she undoubtedly has talent to burn, her first solo album is a mildly disappointing setting for it. A top-flight example of the American inclination toward lush but lightweight soul, it makes all the right R&B noises without engaging the emotions." She gave it three out of five stars.
Sal Cinquemani of Slant dismissed the ballads on Simply Deep as "all gloppy-goo and no soul; but through it all Rowland manages to keep her cool. The album's best tracks, the light and breezy "Train on a Track" and "(Love Lives In) Strange Places," infuse the singer's lush harmonies with acoustic guitars and poetic wordplay."
He especially criticized Solange Knowles' contribution to the album, noting her "icky [and] laughable lyrics" as the worst on the album which he rated two and a half out of five stars.
Jon Caramanica of Entertainment Weekly commented that "Rowland, at times, seems like Destiny's adopted child, never receiving a full helping of Knowles-family adulation. Alas, her first solo project doesn't pull her out from Beyonce's shadow. She needs added star power: Her backup-singer instincts leave even the hottest songs here feeling somewhat chilly."
Craig Seymour of Vibe was generally disappointed with the album, writing: "Rowland's solo album marks an attempt to further establish herself as a singular talent, but the effort is as misguided as the Nelly hookup was savvy [...] An abundance of cheesy folk/R&B numbers make Rowland come off like Brandy fronting as India.Arie." He gave the album one and a half out of five stars.