Reporting Shannon Carlin
When you write a song that mentions Beyoncé, it’s bound to get traction. Even more so when you’re one of Bey’s best friends and the song talks about living in her shadow. (Sample lyric: “Post-‘Survivor’, she on fire, who wanna hear my bulls****?”)
But Kelly Rowland’s track “Dirty Laundry,” off of her new album out this week, Talk A Good Game, wasn’t meant to fuel the tabloids. She just wanted to be honest — something she hadn’t always had a chance to be in the decade since her solo debut, Simply Deep, came out.
“Dirty Laundry” started out as a conversation between Rowland and The-Dream where the two just talked about a few things she wanted to get off her chest, specifically an abusive boyfriend. Of course, when it came to the album as a whole, there were other things she also wanted to cover. “I had a lot to say this album,” Rowland said with a smile.
But she isn’t looking for your pity. Instead, “Dirty Laundry” was a way to move on from the pain and help other women move on, too.
“It’s OK to express and share your story because you don’t know what other people are going through,” Rowland told Radio.com. “You never know who you’re touching. Not only is it fun and it feels good to hear. But it also can be a testimony. It can be healing.”
During an appearance in New York City last month, she seemed overwhelmed while performing the song, but the second it was over she let the crowd know she was no longer a victim. It’s a theme that runs throughout Talk A Good Game.
“Parts of this album are definitely therapeutic and have helped me personally,” Rowland said. “Even when I listen to [the songs] I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember this moment….’ Listening back to the album and being in the studio and thinking about a situation or putting myself in the same space that I was in… that’s always interesting. People can always hear and feel that and thought that was an important element to have on this album.”
Rowland admitted she wouldn’t have been able to write “Dirty Laundry” in the beginning of her career. Back then she didn’t want to address the pain or maybe didn’t want to admit to herself (or her fans) how powerless she was, but since then she’s realized how a song like that can inspire women all over. To let them know, just because something happens to you when you’re young, doesn’t mean it defines you forever.
“I feel like I’ve grown into being a strong woman and knowing who I am, what I like, what I don’t like,” Rowland said. “All of those things are very necessary.”
“Once you know all those things–your boundaries–other people have to respect that as well,” she added. “And I think that for me, with music, especially with a song like ‘Dirty Laundry,’ you want to make sure people are understanding the story.”
Thanks to songs like “Bootylicious,” “Bug A Boo” and “Survivor,” Rowland and her Destiny’s Child bandmates spread a message of female independence to the masses. But when she went solo, the message of empowerment seemed to get lost in dance beats and rap collaborations. With Talk A Good Game, Rowland is representing specifically for the ladies once again. But just like the singer and her fans who have stuck around since the early days, the topics have matured. Now she’s talking about the realities of the job market (the Pharrell-produced “Street Life”), kicking a less-than-stellar boyfriend to the curb (“Gone,” which samples Joni Mitchell) and being honest enough to say what she wants in the bedroom (the very frank “Kisses Down Low”).
“I always think about women when I’m making a record,” she said. “I think about how many women inspired and touched me throughout my life. I feel it’s my duty to give that back.”
Her desire to tell female-driven stories started when she was a young girl growing up in Houston, Texas. Back then, she would hang out in the salons and just listen to different women tell their personal tales of being single moms and working multiple jobs to get by or dealing with loser ex-boyfriends. Some of those tales even became songs. It was a way to support those ladies who needed someone to tell their stories for them. It’s something Rowland doesn’t take for granted.
“It’s important for women to continue to turn to each other in a positive way and encourage each other,” she said. “I’m able to have the platform and the blessing to be able to do that. I’m supposed to do something with that.”
Now Rowland doesn’t need to tell other women’s stories, she’s got her own. Her latest album is a new and improved look at a singer many thought that they already knew. Sure, she can sing about sex and love to get us dancing, but it’s when she shares the intimate parts of herself that we see the kind of artist she can be and more importantly, should be. For a minute, it even makes you forget that famous friend of hers.