It’s got to be tough living in someone’s shadow, especially when you’ve got talent of your own. Kelly Rowland has spent the last fifteen years (for better or for worse) being perceived as “the other chick in Destiny’s Child”. That does her kind of a disservice-seeing as a) she’s fine as hell (prettier than Beyonce, IMHO) and she’s got a pretty voice, even if the material she’s given is often terrible. Her solo career has really never gotten off the ground, which might be due as much to her questionable song choices as it is to anything else, but her latest single “Motivation” has quickly made it’s way to the top of Billboard’s R&B singles chart. It leads off Kelly’s third project, entitled Here I Am. I’m not necessarily sure that the direction she’s going in now (which makes her into any anonymous pop/R&B singer) is the right direction for her creatively, but…what do I know?

Rowland’s latest effort is one of several notable releases out today. Fresh off being the victim of a scary kidnapping plot, British soul singer Joss Stone makes her independent label debut with LP1. Joss (like Beyonce, as a matter of fact) has always been one of those artists who I feel needed life experience (and good production) to grow into her voice, and I’m not totally sure Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart (who helms this set) is the right producer for her. Now if she re-teamed with Raphael Saadiq…

I don’t know how on board I am musically with the whole Odd Future thing, but this Frank Ocean cat seems like the real deal. I downloaded his mixtape a couple weeks ago, and this guy is pretty talented. Now armed with a Def Jam deal, Ocean releases Nostalgia Lite, sort of a combination of mixtape tracks, odds and ends.  This might actually be my only purchase this week.

Damn-it’s a good week for R&B (or a bad one, depending on your feelings toward the contemporary version of the genre). Brandy and Ray J. have the last of this week’s major soul releases with Brandy & Ray J.-A Family Business, the soundtrack to their reality show (or their latest reality show-as these two have seemingly made embarrassing themselves on TV an official occupation).

Elsewhere, there are new releases from the likes of hit gospel outfit Hillsong, married neo-soul duo Kindred the Family Soul (think Ashford & Simpson and Jill Scott having a baby), metal favorites Toxic Holocaust, blues/rock guitarist (and brother of Stevie Ray) Jimmie Vaughan, as well as a covers album from Seventies soft-rock unit America (which just sounds all kinds of scary and wrong) and…the return of Vanessa Carlton? The singer/songwriter/pianist has struggled to find her way since scoring a hit with “A Thousand Miles” a decade ago, and after a questionable stint on Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc. label (really?), she’s returned on Razor & Tie Records with the curiously titled Rabbits on the Run. I wonder if Vanessa gets broken off with a good chunk of change every time “White Chicks” airs on TV.

Make sure you get the lowdown on all this week’s releases courtesy of the good folks at Pauseandplay.com.

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