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Album review: Keri Hilson's 'No Boys Allowed'

December 21, 2010 |  9:00 am

Hilson Whether it’s regarding money or sex, Keri Hilson is concerned with boundaries on her second album, hence the girls' clubhouse title, “No Boys Allowed.” Whatever lines she’s ready to draw with lovers or her bank account, one wishes she’d applied the same “suffer no fools” attitude to the production and thematic intent of her follow-up to the promising but flawed 2009 album, “In A Perfect World.”

With executive producers Timbaland and Polow Da Don at the helm, “No Boys Allowed” often sounds like lipstick on a pig. There’s no song that cruises with the chrome-rattling confidence of “Turnin’ Me On”; instead, nearly every song is cluttered with as much textural filigree as possible to distract from the absence of narcotic radio hooks.

But the bigger problem is with Hilson’s assertion that this will be some sort of girl power album reflecting the concerns of herself and her friends. In glimpses it reaches that goal — like in maybe half of the sticky and finessed “Breaking Point” — but it’s undone by the album’s many other contradictory messages.

“No Boys Allowed” features only guest spots from men — Jay-Z’s exciting protégé J. Cole, Rick Ross, Kanye West (not in his best form) and Nelly. That’s a little disappointing but not as woefully capitulating as inviting Chris Brown to duet on a song called “One Night Stand.”

Listening to Brown lay down a seduction track only conjures the feeling of turning around in a dark parking lot and seeing a big stranger coming up fast. Sure, you’ll probably be OK, but in the moment all you can think is “Where are my keys?!” Justified fear — nothing like that to get things going in the bedroom. Is this the aphrodisiac that either had in mind?

— Margaret Wappler

Keri Hilson
“No Boys Allowed”
Interscope/Zone 4/Mosley
Two stars (out of four)

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