Kelly Rowland and Lil Wayne isn’t just any old R&B puzzle-piece pairing. Yes, both artists guest with everyone, Rowland because she’s in the tier where that is done and Wayne because he’s Wayne. (Many things can be explained with “because he’s Wayne.”) But one particular pairing turned out really well: “Motivation,” with a beat that dripped as ice and a Rowland vocal equally chilly. This means that a Rowland/Wayne sequel is exciting where, say, a Rowland/RedOne or a Rowland/Big Sean sequel would not be. (Could you name the song that corresponded to each of those two? We could, because that’s our job, but unless you’re a megafan….)
We’ve just set Rowland up for some diminishing returns in that paragraph. And indeed, inevitably, that’s what happens–though they don’t diminish entirely. Listen to “Ice” below.
The song’s called “Ice,” but it’d be impossible to find a beat chillier than “Motivation”; this is more like a bath drawn and left to cool. Its draw is one thing and only one thing: Kelly Rowland crooning at half-volume about purring like a kitten and suchlike. That’s why the chorus (and the very first lyrics) can start with something as underwritten as “you’re like ice, I-C-E, feels so nice,” why the only surprise about the ice-cube play is how unceremoniously it enters the picture, why Wayne can get away with essentially the same thing he did last time around (except this time his WTF line isn’t about doing dishes but “I beat the cat / animal cruelty,” which should insult itself; he also says YOLO.) Again, this was inevitable; did anyone think the problem with “Motivation” was that its subtext wasn’t spelled out? It’s still tepid–and that’s a temperature nobody ever tries for.