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Reality TV made it easier to root for Cole, whose upbringing inevitably shaped his views on love. That attitude and fatigue allowed him to be moved from a deeper, tormented place The way it is. “(I Just Want It) To Be Over” (I Just Want It) To Be Over” (“I Just Want It) To Be Over” (“I Just Want It) To Be Over” (Crusal Keys) by) over riotous horn blasts, he describes a period of frustration and disappointment with the wrong guy. On records like “Thought You Had My Back,” a classic ballad of angst where she’s at odds with two confusing ideas (men and love), she sounds just as young and hardened.

The way it is was less emotionally charged and more redemptive than such an album my life, where Blige bravely spirals into the depths of depression. Cole’s debut lacks the brooding undertones that might have helped steer him down a more progressive R&B path. Still, the record is a worthy entry in the canon of breakup albums, a category too often trivialized because the music mostly appeals to young women who feel they haven’t been able to find lasting romance.

Beneath his line of kisses, The way it is is also deeply sensitive. The string ballad “Love” features the vocal melodrama of a girl who thinks singing her heart out can bring back lost love. “You’ve Changed” echoes the weepy Just Blaze beat on Jay-Z’s love song “Song Cry.” In response to Jay’s reluctant pathos, Cole interprets the dissolution from his perspective, suggesting that perhaps the money made him treat his wife differently. Cole’s songwriting is too cosmetic elsewhere, oversimplifying the drama. The mid-tempo “Situations” is about being caught in a predictable love triangle. During the song “We Could Be”, she is in love with minimal charm, simply singing: “If we could be friends baby that would be all I need.” Lines like this only come together when you’re in your most impressionable teenage years, hurt but still developing a language around romantic feelings.

Cole’s debut bridges the gap between unconventional, old soul singers like Blige and Erykah Badu and the new school of SZAs and Summer Walkers, whose generation is even more artfully ruthless in the dating scene. “I’m so mature, I found myself a therapist,” SZA sings on her latest album, S.O.Swhile fantasizing about killing his ex. Cole once explained this emotional logic during the premiere of his now-defunct talk show in 2019 (fittingly, his first guest was a friend who is now an ex). She argued that women today have become hopeless with a sense of carelessness, and after reaching a boiling point, she said: “We decided to just be wild.”

One episode Keyshia Cole, which aired for three seasons, features Cole in the studio with Diddy. While recording the hook on him Click PlaOn the single “Last Night,” he teaches the singer to add more spunk to her vocals, calling it “that conversational shit that you specialize in,” Diddy says, later telling Cole that he’s “one of the greatest vocalists I’ve ever known.” ever worked with. It is true that his voice is specially strained in order to convey the rooted pain of years of misfortunes. The way it is showed that he can go to those deeper places when he wants to. He just has to feel it.

Additional research by Deirdre McCabe Nolan

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