It seems if you're Nicole Scherzinger, you can't get a solo break. While her success with The Pussycat Dolls is set in stone, her trek to release a solo album has been 6 years in the making. The initial debut album was shelved due to lack of a strong release, and tracks were ferreted in different directions, including to The Pussycat Dolls, padding their Doll Domination release. So Nicole's name has been bandied about for a few years but the lack of a release sort of made the idea of a solo album from her more of a laugh than a reality. Until it became a reality. Scherzinger dropped the lead single "Poison" to good reviews and club play as well as international chart success. The track's edge and drive gave it the oomph Nicole needed to get attention outside of the Dolls, and paved the way for her to drop a second single and eventually Killer Love, her long-awaited debut album.
Killer Love? More like Random Love
Killer Love is produced by a mash of people including RedOne, The-Dream, Sandy Vee, StarGate, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, and an odd assortment of others. This gives Killer Love a fragmented overall impression, where even Scherzinger herself isn't a unifying component. She either goes from her own bold voice on "Don't Hold Your Breath," the second single that just dares her man to show his face again, to sounding just like Rihanna on "Right There." While the production on both tracks is top notch, the vibes on both tracks could not be diametrically dissimilar. The tightly-wound pain on "Don't Hold Your Breath" works with the house production and feels genuine and honest, while her vocal manipulation on "Right There" is unimpressive and deceiving. "Wet" actually combines the two, giving us a solid party vibe where she sounds, again, like Rihanna. This track works far more than "Right There" but not quite as well as "Don't Hold Your Breath," so perhaps she's onto something with the dancier songs. Following those up with "You Will Be Loved," a vapid attempt at a poignant R&B track, cracks the cohesion that much further.
"Don't Hold Your Breath" is actually a great standard to hold the rest of the album to. Tracks like "Poison" and "Killer Love" both thrive with RedOne's production but don't allow Scherzinger to really use her voice. The grunge and growl of the tracks is what dominates and Nicole just has to hang on for the ride. Conversely, the simple piano of "AmenJena" allows Nicole to use her instrument fully and to great effect, sounding more like a Jewel than a Rihanna. Her voice works wonders on the Leona Lewis-esque tracks "Casualty" and "Desperate" as well as the early 90s-Mariah Carey pop jam "Everybody," but feels understated and weak against Sting on "Power's Out" and also against Enrique Iglesias on "Heartbeat." The dance beats lift her up rather than hold her back on "Say Yes," which is a complete about-face from "Club Banger Nation" where it feels more that she's yelling at you.
Nicole Scherzinger has a ways to go to prove that she has that special something to be a solo artist. Her voice is her winning trait but it almost requires others upon which she can be compared to in order to impress. Killer Love features a lot that hints at what she can do but fails overall to deliver the goods. "Don't Hold Your Breath" is an absolute standout and one of the best tracks she has offered in any association she's had. Now she just needs an album chock full of songs that good and she'll finally become a relevant solo artist.
Release March 2011 on Polydor UK.