Hilson’s debut album far from perfection

In a Perfect World… is Keri Hilson’s debut album. Originally slated for release in 2007, it was pushed back two years until 2009, anticipation building the whole time. Unfortunately, despite solid sales, the album falls short.

You might know Keri Hilson from Timbaland’s song “The Way I Are,” or from writing for many artists like Britney Spears, Ciara, Ludacris and Usher. Since then, Keri has not been in the forefront until recently with her best-performing single to date, “Turnin’ Me On.”

Despite having an excellent production team and big name guests, the album never seems to get off the ground. The first five tracks are great and are the perfect balance of similarity and difference needed to be popular. Despite this strong start, the rest of the album deflates into yawn-inducing slow jams and never quite recovers.

Though all the songs have better than average production, they are not very melodic or interesting. The vast majority of the songs do not swell to a catharsis, but instead merely end. Most of the songs start and finish without any consequence. Hilson’s voice does not match the glittering production, but instead gets in the way of hearing it. This album would have been better if some of the tracks were instrumental. They all start off exciting enough, but then die quietly.

The whole album comes off as disjointed and incomplete. Nothing meshes well, and all the elements stick out individually instead of becoming a synergetic whole. Several of the elements of the Timbaland-produced tracks are reused verbatim.

Since Hilson is a singer and not a rapper, certain things are expected. These expectations are hardly met. She seems to have a very limited range and a one-dimensional delivery. The only evidence of her as a singer exists in misplaced vocal runs, as her voice comes off as very undynamic. It gets tiring, and more disappointingly, boring. This is a shame because many of the songs on the album are slow jams that emphasize voice.

Most of the good songs on the album have already been released as singles. “Turnin’ Me On,” “Get Your Money Up,” “Return the Favor,” “Knock You Down,” “Change Me” and “Energy” are the only highlights here. This album is 64.29% crap.

“Get Your Money Up” is a female empowerment song, but at the same time, it’s quite shallow. It may be ridiculously unapologetic, but it’s one of the most fun songs on the album. They want “something better than the MARTA bus.” Produced by Timbaland and Danja, it’s got quite a groove.

“Return the Favor” has Timbaland’s signature cleanliness of production, antithetical to the song’s content, which seems to be quite dirty. The song isn’t really about Hilson, but Timberland. Although one of the most melodic of all the tracks, the production behind the vocals demands more attention.

The lyrics stop after three minutes, but the song continues for another two-and-a-half. During this is perhaps the most insightful moment of the entire album; the production uses Hilson’s voice as part of the artificial instrumentation.

The layers slowly peel back, starting with voice, to the underlying basic chord progressions which fade out. Many people will get bored with the latter third of this song, even though that is where the magic is. The instrumentation on this track is bright, like a Nintendo-created world.

“Change Me” is the album’s valiant effort at resuscitation. The track features a reinvented Akon. It is also one of the best uses of Hilson’s voice because she isn’t allowed to show off. She goes into the background for much of the song, which is unfortunately where she sounds the best on this album.

“Alienated” is worth a listen because it is so strange. After several listens, no judgment seems quite right. It is a sing-song rap. Or something. It’s an odd one. It is reminiscent of both the recent Killers’ albums and Ciara’s “Hotline.” It’s the platypus of the album.

Overall, the album is a letdown. After two years of anticipation built up for it, it consistently disappoints. There are a couple of really great spots, but there are many more appallingly terrible ones.