LOS ANGELES — Kelly Rowland opens her third solo effort, “Here I Am,” with the roaring “I’m Dat Chick,” on which the diva boasts a newfound confidence. And for a solo career that has seen as much criticism as triumph, the assertion couldn’t have come at a better time: She’s out to prove something.
“Yeah, I be the one that they love to mention / I tell ‘em keep on talking, cause I love the attention,” she sings on the Tricky Stewart-produced track.
It’s paid off for Rowland. “Here I Am” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 after logging 77,000 copies, according to Nielsen Soundscan — her highest out-of-the-gate charting outside of the multiplatinum clutch of Destiny’s Child.
Though the 30-year-old appears to have found her footing now, a year ago she was stuck on a path of stalled singles and delays for the album, her first in four years, and with both a new label and management.
“I wanted this record to be a statement for me. Every song was showing every side of me from a personal side on ‘Heaven on Earth’ to a more sensual side with songs like ‘Motivation,’” Rowland said during a recent phone conversation. “For me, it was more so about making that statement of ‘Here I Am.’”
Originally slated for release nearly a year ago, the disc was supposed to trail the lightning success of her collaboration with French dance producer David Guetta on “When Love Takes Over.” Rowland enlisted Guetta for the album’s first single, “Commander,” which hit the top spot on the dance charts. But subsequent singles, ranging from Euro-pop (“Forever and a Day” and “Rose Colored Glasses”) to R&B (“Grown Woman”), quickly cooled and were subsequently ditched from the final disc.
“(I was) just feeling out the record. It was feeling incomplete,” Rowland says of the stalls. “And for a second, so many people were trying to put me in a box. And nobody better put me in a box when it came to this record. When it comes to dance music or when it comes to urban music, I can do it all. People are able to try things out. If it works, wonderful. If it doesn’t, keep it moving.”