Keyshia Cole’s new album title, “Woman to Woman,” pretty much sums up the R&B; diva’s appeal -- her ability to speak to women.
Her raspy soprano and the pain and anguish communicated in her words garnered comparisons to Mary J. Blige when Cole arrived in 2005. Since her debut, the 31-year-old has continued that emotional journey. And she’s the first to tell you she’s been there.
Cole’s fans watched the R&B; singer open up about her rough upbringing on the BET show “Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is,” which featured the 31-year-old mending fences with her mother, who suffered from drug addiction. Her latest BET series, “Keyshia & Daniel: Family First,” focuses on the star balancing her career with her new life as a mother and wife (she married basketball player Daniel Gibson in 2011).
“Woman to Woman,” out Monday, is Cole going back to basics (which was the title of the album until she realized another diva had used it) with plenty of tales of heartbreak, betrayal and love.
Ahead of the album, Cole opened up with Pop & Hiss about her career, stepping back in front of the cameras and why her last record didn’t connect with fans.
When during recording did you have the ‘a-ha’ moment?
[The title track] and “Trust in Believe.” The song is amazing. I actually cried listening to the song before. Not because I experienced it, but because it had the emotion in it. I was speaking to someone who was actually going through it and I was crying for her.
The title track is a duet with Ashanti. How’d that come together?
I’ve always wanted to work with Ashanti, especially when she first came out. [I wanted] that opportunity, especially with another female writer to sit down and discuss what she’s been through, and what I’ve been through. We wanted more than anything to not argue in the song. We don’t want to fight, bicker or fuss. She brought up a good point when we were writing, that you don’t know if when we have this conversation in this song about this dude if I’m gonna go and take him back and tell you whatever. I would like to do a remix to the song if it’s ever a single and have a man on there so we could have a guy’s perspective.
How has becoming a mother changed you?
In terms of hard work and dedication, it has changed tremendously. When I had my son, I slowed down drinking a lot. You know, I turned from a party girl and having fun to being focused. I made sure that I kept everything in perspective.
Why do you think your last record, ‘Calling All Hearts,’ didn’t seem to connect like your other records?
I was going through a lot in my life, in my family, with my friends, with my business associates. It was a time and a period in my life when I was really down. I was really sad. Not only that, but I was pregnant and I had just had my baby. I was disconnected myself, to be honest. And I lost Ron Fair [Cole’s longtime mentor and A&R; executive left Geffen Records and started his own label]. There were so many pieces of the puzzle that were not there.
Was there hesitation to put yourself in front of the cameras for a second reality show?
No, because I don’t think you can change people. I think that the people you deal with are gonna be who they are, regardless if they have money or not. Fortunately, my husband already has money. And he already has fame. It wasn’t anything brand new for him. And we came to a mutual agreement that we’re not perfect and we’re not gonna be perfect on camera.
Your mother and sister got their own show after you (2009’s ‘Frankie & Neffe’). Were you taken aback by the amount of negative criticism that came with it?
Well, you know. I wanted them to grow. I wanted them, so badly, to just change. But like I said, I can only live for me and what I want in my life. And I’ll be damned if I let my mother fall by the wayside, especially if I have an opportunity and a voice. My mother has been doing so much better and she’s been making me so happy. I’m so fulfilled within my family life right now because of my mother.
After the last album, you split with your longtime manager, Manny Halley. There was speculation that his business dealings with other family members played a role. Can we set the record straight?
Um, it was a result of … how can I say this? What’s done is done and I love Manny like a brother. We grinded hard and we made a lot of things happen. But that chapter is now over.
Have you figured out touring plans for the album?
I want to do a “Woman to Woman” tour. I want powerful singers, Brandy, possibly, Melanie Fiona, possibly. Just singers that can really blow but also have some things and records out right now. We’re working that out right now, so that could be a February-March.
Women have had a huge year in R&B.; What excites you about your return?
It’s that moment in R&B; that it was [in pop music] for Adele. In our hip-hop/R&B; world, this album is going to be for us what the Adele record was for them.
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