Kelly Rowland (Columbia)
When hotter-than-hot rapper Nelly tapped a member of Destiny’s Child to coo the chorus of his recent No. 1 hit “Dilemma,” his choice wasn’t front-woman Beyoncé Knowles but Kelly Rowland. Releasing her debut solo disc (which includes “Dilemma”) while Destiny’s Child is on hiatus, Rowland continues to prove that she is more than just Mary Wilson to Knowles’s Diana Ross. Although her voice isn’t as explosive as Knowles’s, Rowland possesses a sultry timbre belying her 21 years and an unforced delivery that doesn’t oversell her decent R&B-pop material. Rowland excels on tastefully understated midtempo numbers such as the breezy, acoustic-guitar-laden “(Love Lives in) Strange Places,” one of three songs that she cowrote. While neither of the other Destiny’s Child members contributed, Solange Knowles—Beyoncé’s 16-year-old little sister whose debut CD is due next month—cowrote and coproduced three slow jams, including the title tune, on which Solange sings backup for Rowland.
Bottom Line: Solid solo