Kelly Rowland is releasing a new solo effort, and “Dirty Laundry” is airing a lot of source material. The former Destiny’s Child singer makes two revelations in this new track: one is her feelings on the success of Beyonce as she, comparitively, lived “in her shadow.” The other is that she was physically abused by an ex-lover.
To the former, she sings, backed by a melancholy piano: “While my sister was on stage, killin” it like a motherf*cker / I was enraged, feeling it like a motherfucker / Bird in a cage, you would never know what I was dealing with / Went out separate ways, but I was happy she was killin’ it… Bittersweet, she was up, I was down.”
Beyonce makes another flashback cameo, as Rowland was surviving post-“Survivor,” as a survivor of abuse.
“Started to call them people on him / I was battered / He hittin the window like it was me, until it shattered / He pulled me out, he said, “Don”t nobody love you but me / Not your mama, not your daddy and especially not Bey,” she continues. The ending of this particular verse hurts my heart. “He turned me against my sister / I missed ya.”
Hell if I and many other critics haven’t lobbed jokes about how Kelly or Michelle would never make it bigger than Beyonce. Rowland — who’s always had a sharp voice and knows how to tell a story — hasn’t had the chance for a superstar trek since Destiny’s Child days. Her song here, though, isn’t about to turn that negativity into more negativity, but into something positive by cleaning up her own feelings on the matter.
Saying that she was conflicted and angry during a time of DC post-breakup blues is actually very self-award and gutsy. But disclosure that she’d gone through a dark and misguided period through abuse is no easy feat either, even on a simple confession produced by The-Dream. R&B singers’ bread and butter is emotional climaxes of relationships, from the chase, the bedding, the wedding or the breakup (and of course all tensions in-between). While many scorned lovers’ songs make enemies of their exes or insinuate their own indiscretions, there are extreme few that outline actual terror of physical, emotional or sexual abuse in the legal sense. Rowland’s dirty laundry here isn’t only that she was abused in secret, but that those abuses led to her hurting others. It’s a meta-narrative on an R&B trope and the record-making industry, and a sensationally true story, which makes it totally fascinating as a piece of art.
And entertainment. Rowland’s voice her is top-notch, don’t you think?
Rowland’s album “Talk a Good Game” is due on June 18.