Revisiting: Keyshia Cole's Third Studio Album "A Different Me" (2008)

In honor of tonight's Verzuz battle between R&B icons Keyshia Cole and Ashanti, lets take a trip down memory lane and revisit perhaps one of Keyshia's most overlooked albums. Her third studio album, "A Different Me" released in December of 2008.

By 2008 Keyshia Cole was already solidified as one of R&B’s leading ladies. It was the year she received her first Grammy nomination, and her freshman and sophomore albums were multi-platinum successes that spawned a chain of top 10 hits. Many of the songs on those two albums would later become modern classics and among her signature songs. It was clear that Keyshia had successfully seized an opportunity that was left open by Monica and Mary J. Blige in the early 00’s and became the new voice for the young around the way girls. Keyshia was in the game now and young women everywhere were depending on her to articulate their feelings in song.

Keyshia told Billboard in 2008 that she was pushing her pen and ready to write from a different perspective. It took Keyshia having to step out of herself to challenge herself as an artist. "The first two albums were more … painful," she continued "It's a different me this time: a young woman who's still growing and finding myself, exploring life through different routes musically and in other areas. I wrote more about other people's situations than my own. I'm moving forward." Keyshia was using this artistic breakthrough to talk about love and intimacy in a way that she had never done before. For her third album, it was time for Keyshia to give her young female fans hope. Hope that there’s not always heartbreak, and you can experience the beautiful parts of love too. She told the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 08' about the new feel of the album: "It's a lot lighter and sexier. You can listen to it and it's not so heartbroken and painful."

Keyshia separated herself from the soul baring breakup anthems that people began to look to her for far sooner than Mary J. Blige, the legend who she was already being compared to and essentially modeled her career after. It took Mary five albums to declare “No More Drama” - and here Keyshia is on album three demanding “I wanna be made over so make me over, make me over” (Make Me Over) a spin on Tina Turner's “Tina’s Wish.

The theme of Keyshia Cole’s “A Different Me” was to simply reintroduce herself, as the opening lyrics to the album state.

“I'd like to introduce.

A different me …. I would like to introduce a sexier side of me (Side of me)”

Keyshia Cole was always a gorgeous woman, but 2008 was the beginning of a more glamorous and sexier era. She went for a more sleek, black hairstyle that matured her image. She even took it a step further, by getting her signature gap closed. It was clear that this was an album for the grown and sexy.

She told East Bay Times at the time of this album's release, that she was following a “rigorous workout regimen consisting of weightlifting, swimming and biking” in preparation for the visuals for this album. Keyshia stated that she was afraid of embracing her beauty in fear that it would overshadow the music. However, she clearly released those inhibitions on A Different Me, and it reflected in the music. For example, “No Other” featuring Amina Harris is the polar opposite of their collaboration on Keyshia’s previous album, “Should’ve Let You Go”. Keyshia is not talking about a sour experience here - but rather an incomparable love that makes her want to “push up on ya” and you better not go nowhere, because there’s “No other girl livin' who'd love you like I could.” There was a confidence to Keyshia that exudes through the track, making for a fun experience.

The standout record is “Playa Cardz Right” that includes a feature from the late Tupac Shakur (whom Keyshia knew personally) and features vocals that were intended for his album All Eyez On Me. Afenei Shakur appeared in the music video, which further solidified Keyshia’s Bay-Area credibility.

Keyshia taps in with rap icon Nas for “Oh-Oh, Yea-Yea.” This song caters to her east coast fans, that embraced her exceedingly early on in her career. Here, Keyshia wanted her man to believe in their love, but instead of “I should've cheated” - Keyshia Cole chalks it up to it being the way love goes.

This is the album that features a pivotal moment in Keyshia’s career, the Monica assisted “Trust.” Monica and Keyshia collaboration is somewhat of a passing of the torch, as ten years prior Monica was in Keyshia Cole’s position, as the voice of the around the way girl. In the early 00s personal life would sideline Monica at the height of her mainstream success … leaving the door open for Keyshia Cole to carry on that message. Monica was to the mid to late 90s what Keyshia Cole would become in the early 00s.

A Different Me saw Keyshia Cole play with a new up-tempo production style, as heard on songs like “Please Don’t Stop “, that made you want to hit the dance floor like most popular songs of 08’ did. 2008 was a major dance-pop resurgence, with the introduction of Katy Perry and Lady GaGa. This was Keyshia's way of trying to climb the ladder and hang with the likes of Rihanna and Beyonce, who by 2008 both mastered the art of making songs that appealed to pop and “urban” formats. It was an out of the box, experimental approach from Keyshia - sticking to the theme of reintroducing herself as “a different me.”

To the average fan that will be tuning in tonight’s Verzuz battle between Keyshia and Ashanti, they will be looking forward to those ear candy hits like “Let It Go” and “I Should've Cheated” or those timeless tunes like “Love” and “I Remember.” that everyone regardless of how old they are can sing along to word for word. Rarely will Keyshia’s third studio album “A Different Me'' come into the conversation. This might be a result of Its moderate commercial success compared to her first two outings, however listening back to this album over a decade later, this is by far one of Keyshia ‘s most exciting albums. From the concept, to the production this album is a fun listen.

Revisit Keyshia Cole's third studio album "A Different Me" :