Don't blame Kimberly Michelle Pate for using the celeb-reality network to jump-start her career. The Southern singer languished for three years as a victim of the R&B world's punishingly exact measures for choosing who gets to release full-length albums. It's a process that has left countless talented artists in limbo, their careers sputtering out after a few random digital singles.
K. Michelle avoided that fate by jumping from RCA Records to Warner Bros. Records, and then landing a role on VH1's Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta, bringing her no-nonsense personality to a wider audience. The low bar of that series may have left us unprepared for her confident debut, Rebellious Soul, and her tough yet sympathetic stories of "My Life" and flawed individuals locked in difficult relationships. "Girl, you ain't never gonna change nobody," she sings on "Can't Raise a Man." She defends her man with the same passion on "V.S.O.P.": "He ain't supposed to be with you, that what everybody gonna tell me/ But I can't really count on what everybody gon' tell me." Headstrong to a fault, she pushes her way through 11 songs with a strident yet expressive voice and persuasive charm. As one of the best R&B albums of the year, Rebellious Soul shows how the ends sometimes justify the means to achieve them.