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Album review: Keri Hilson's 'In a Perfect World . . .'

March 23, 2009 |  6:40 pm

Hilson240 "In a Perfect World . . . " might be Keri Hilson's debut album, but it's hardly the work of a record-biz neophyte. As part of the Clutch, an Atlanta-based songwriting squad, Hilson has spent the last few years penning hits for such A-list acts as Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige, and in 2007 she dominated Top 40 radio as the female voice on Timbaland's smash "The Way I Are."

She's not shy about using her connections, either: "Perfect World" features production by Timbaland, Danja and Polow da Don, and sports guest appearances from bigwigs including Lil Wayne, Akon, Kanye West and Ne-Yo.

All that star power can leave little room in these futuristic R&B songs for Hilson, whose sturdy but unremarkable voice rarely transcends its role as a melody-delivery device. In impeccably arranged tracks like "Turnin Me On" and "Slow Dance" (the latter co-written by Justin Timberlake), Hilson describes the ecstasy of desire with all the warmth of an alien observing life on Planet Earth. And compared with Keyshia Cole's and Trina's typically fiery turns in "Get Your Money Up," Hilson comes off like somebody Polow hired as an in-studio chaperon.

She fares much better in the handful of cameo-free cuts, such as "Make Love," where she trills seductively over a slinky slow-jam groove, and "Intuition," a top-shelf Timbaland joint with a haunting minor-key refrain ("I've got this crazy feeling / I'm gonna be single again") that Hilson truly sells.

-- Mikael Wood

Keri Hilson
"In a Perfect World . . . "
Two stars