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Sounds like … a blend of urban sounds similar to Mary Mary and Damita, only with a slight gospel edge that recalls Karen Clark-Sheard and J MossAt a glance … more vocal finesse and less forced eclecticism position Bold Right Life as the most accomplished recording Kierra Sheard as recorded thus farTrack Listing Won't Hold Back Wave Your Banner My Boyfriend Invisible Love Like Crazy Like David Praise Him Now Oh Lord If It Had Not Been One J.E.S.U.S.
Don't call her KiKi no more: Kierra Sheard is all growed-up now, and she has her sights set on making her third album her transition into adulthood. Bold Right Life is a reintroduction of sorts that seeks to paint a more accurate portrait of who she is as an artist.
In theory, that's not a bad idea. Sheard is now 21, no longer the teenager who made a habit of tagging along with her mother Karen Clark-Sheard on her albums. She's also far removed from the 16-year-old who delivered the popular-but-erratic I Owe You, a debut that was more about pleasing youth and their parents than about establishing her identity. Sheard seemed to find her voice with her second disc, the stylish This Is Me, an urban collection that saw Sheard getting in touch with her inner Mary J. Blige.
Bold Right Life is a lot like I Owe You, but Sheard sounds more self-assured as she balances her soulful, urban, and gospel inclinations, which this time don't come across as a function of her label handlers or producers, but rather a faithful representation of what she loves. "Won't Hold Back" is pure Beyoncé, "Wave Your Banner" is a dance anthem for the ages, and "My Boyfriend" is equal parts Gwen Stefani and Rihanna.
This modernity is atypical of urban gospel, but Sheard handles it well. Even a song that shouldn't work, like the Kelly Clarkson-style "Invisible" succeeds because Sheard has become a more thoughtful singer, not just someone who shreds her vocal cords because the song calls for it.
As to be expected, there are a couple of balmy, highly harmonic ballads ("Praise Him Now," "Oh Lord") eerily reminiscent of her mother or even her cousin J Moss. But they're not nearly as indulgent as the churchy floor-stompers that the Clark dynasty is fond of. They're snappy and quick-moving, rendered with poise by Sheard, who never quite taps into that roof-blowing squall that's very much a part of her genetics.
In all, Bold Right Life amounts to the strongest and most true-to-form Kierra Sheard album to date. If she keeps this pace, she'll soon be named in the same breath as her legendary kin.