Personal and creative growth intersect on K. Michelle’s third full-length album, More Issues Than Vogue [Atlantic Records]. The chart-topping and award-winning R&B singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, television personality, and mogul didn’t just realize her sound, but she also realized herself.
“When I start an album, I’m normally heartbroken and thinking about a man,” she admits. “I wasn’t in that place. So, I had to say, ‘Instead of focusing on a guy, it’s time for me to give to myself.’ I started to realize my accomplishments and try to accept my flaws. The music became more upbeat. You still have records speaking on pain and getting over it, but you’ve got a lot of boasting from me. I’m feeling myself and liking the person I’ve become. I’m more confident as a musician and a woman.”
K. Michelle has certainly got every reason to be confident. The Memphis, TN native’s second album, Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart?, bowed at #1 on Billboard’s R&B chart and #6 on the Billboard Top 200, eventually becoming the “best-selling female R&B album of 2014.” Rolling Stone placed it among the “Top 20 R&B Albums of the Year,” while Complex, Washington Post, and more extolled it. Only a year prior, her major label debut Rebellious Soul earned the distinction of becoming the highest Top 200 entry for a female R&B singer’s debut since 2001, also coming in at #1 on Billboard’s R&B chart and #2 on the Billboard Top 200. Alongside those achievements she received a Soul Train Award for “Best New Artist” and an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding New Artist.” In early 2016, the second season of her VH1 reality show, K. Michelle: My Life, opened to an audience of over 3.2 million viewers up 7.5%, and she made history becoming the “first African American to receive an endorsement deal from Jack Daniels.” Everything set the stage for her next album though.
Early in the creative process for More Issues Than Vogue, she purposefully traded the Southern California sun for Atlanta in order to “get the soul back,” as she puts it.
“L.A. is all green juice and peace,” she laughs. “Atlanta brought me back to the hungry K. Michelle who got me a deal in the first place. It helped me focus and regain the hustle.”
The first single, “Not A Little Bit,” reflects that energy. Co-written with Kelly Price and produced by Blac Elvis [Ciara, Usher], K. Michelle flexes her immense vocal range over a delicate piano melody and orchestral swell.
“My last album was about a certain guy,” she sighs. “I never thought I’d get over him. He was actually the first guy I walked away from. People would say, ‘How could you walk away from him? He’s gorgeous and successful.’ This song reminds me what I did was right. I finally moved on, and I’m over it.”
Elsewhere, “Ain’t You” spotlights her sass as she assures a lover to, “Stop listening to bullshit because I just want you.” A collaboration with T-Pain, “DAMN” takes the trumpet from OutKast’s classic “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” and builds a playground for K. Michelle to carry her catchiest and sexiest chorus yet.
“It’s my roots,” she goes on. “I wanted a song that would work in the club and the strip clubs. Who better for that than T-Pain? He’s a musical genius. We discussed my past as a stripper, and that’s what the song is about. It’s meant to be confident though. When I returned to Atlanta, it reminded me of my days of struggle when I didn’t have anything. I got a gorgeous home, and I would have to pass by my old strip club every day on the way to the studio. It was super humbling.”
Another T-Pain collaboration, “Mindful” sees her deftly rapping over a bombastic soundscape and addressing rumors head-on. “I’m at a different place in my life where I don’t beef, but I can still say what I think in my music,” she says. “These days, I leave it all on tape.”
Drawing on her lifelong passion for country music, she shows another side altogether via the Nashville-inspired twang of “If It Ain’t Love.” “I’ve always loved country music,” she remarks. “I know how to yodel and play guitar. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
For More Issues Than Vogue, she assembled a dream team of producers including Eric Hudson [Kanye West, Mary J. Blige], Lil’ Ronnie [R. Kelly, Lupe Fiasco], and Pop & Oak [Britney Spears, Drake]. As a result, the sonic palette supports the overarching narrative.
“It’s in the name,” she continues. “The title means we all have issues. There are a lot of issues of Vogue, but I have more issues than anybody. The first time I heard the phrase I laughed out loud because it fit me so well. Every song focuses on one of those issues. This ties everything together.”
Now, K. Michelle adds another unforgettable page to her personal narrative with More Issues Than Vogue.
“When people hear this, I want them to feel good,” she concludes. “I want them to feel like it was an experience. I’m not a singles artist. I make bodies of work. On Rebellious Soul, you’ve got this girl who was counted out. She released the album people said would never happen. She was angry after. Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart? is the vulnerable part of me and my creativity. On the new album, you get to see me being a confident woman, keeping it real, and evolving. Hopefully, listeners walk away feeling everything: the bad, the good, and the in between. It’s important to me because I work for my legacy not for the moment.”