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Lady of the Hour: LeToya Luckett Takes on R&B, Love & Self

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When sitting down recently to interview R&B singer, LeToya Luckett, I couldn't help but pick up on this certain something about the star, this ineffable quality that makes one want to just root for her. I would never consider the former Destiny's Child bandmember and now successful solo artist as an "underdog", per se; heaven's no. But there is a "local girl done good" quality that seems to just exude forth from the Houston, Texas native. I mean, to speak frankly, Ms. Luckett has had to go up against the indomitable spirit of Papa Knowles and the "Beyoncé machine" when Destiny's Child collapsed in 2000 over rumors of internal mismanagement, and resuscitate her career after a six-year hiatus from the public eye. Trying to be creative under conditions like these would leave anyone paralyzed with doubt, but since the 2006 run-away success of her single "Torn" and number-one album, LeToya, the singer has been working relentlessly to come into her own as an artist. With this week's release of her sophomore project, Lady Love, she has seemingly done just that.

Having already released two singles from Lady Love, "Not Anymore" and "She Ain't Got, "Ms. Luckett is well on her way to leaving her own "thumbprint", as she likes to put it, on R&B music. She confesses that with the immediate success of her single, "Torn", she was catapulted from the respite she had carved for herself in Houston, Texas to the centerstage. "I quite literally had to chase the single down, all while developing myself as a solo artist, finding out who I was as an artist." True, up until "Torn", the singer's career trajectory had largely been marked by another time, by another sound, by another LeToya altogether, so fans were eager to discover where Ms. Luckett would be taking us as she embarked out on her own.

LeToya's search for a musical id is not lost even on her most unwavering of fans, especially considering that now more than ever, a musical artist's persona is so deeply tied to their sound and success. Although "Torn" was a hit, it didn't quite tell us listeners much about Ms. Luckett's potential or range as an artist; it didn't quite give us an idea of what exactly she wanted to say. Le Toya reassures me that Lady Love addresses these queries
head-on, and she has really found who "Toya" is. And from the sound of it, you can't disagree.

Collaborating with the likes of Ne-Yo, Ludacris, Tank, Estelle and Ryan Leslie, Ms. Luckett was looking to have fun and more importantly "create music that can change people's lives and hearts" on her sophomore offering. A tall order, but with the help of R&B producing wunderkid, Ne-Yo, channeling her newly realized sense of self into song, it makes it all the more conceivable.

Confronting the histrionics and wounds of relationships directly, Ms. Luckett explains that with Lady Love she "got some guts" and wanted to be the voice for those women who far too often lose themselves in relationships. I tell her that I can certainly gauge that sentiment on my favorite track, "Regret," featuring Ludacris. Pegged as the third-single off the album, Ms. Luckett squeals in delight after learning of how this track struck quite a chord with me. A smooth ballad that moves delicately over a simple piano-riff, Ms. Luckett's powerful voice warbles of how an old love will realize all too late how much of an influence and impression LeToya in fact had on his life.

But to be fair, LeToya isn't about imparting the blame on the fellas entirely. No, she's much more interested in discussing the mutual culpability men and women must take in their relationships, and is quick to reveal she's guilty of committing mistakes of her own. With tracks like "Lazy" and "Take Away Love", the listener can easily identify Ms. Luckett's earnestness, her honesty about relationships, which makes this album all the more powerful in its accessibility. She is direct in her wants from a partner on "Good To Me" and particularly fed up with the back-and-forth of a dissolving relationship. When she revealed to me, "I am speaking from experience on this album....I am not afraid of being alone and single," you believe her.

But for those who still harbor any doubts over such a confession, they need only look to Lady Love's bold album art, which has LeToya encased in free-form armor, her lithe-form peeking out ever so through the slits. Serving as a defense mechanism to the fullest, Ms. Luckett explains that the armor, "represents a protection of one's heart. I am free within...but that armor protects my heart." A serious forewarning to any interested parties, especially considering Ms. Luckett's effervescence and general charm works in stark contrast to such an image. But perhaps when there is more at stake, when there is greater sense of self at play, you're not going to just fall susceptible to the same patterns, the same ruses that have beleagured you before.

Yes, it sounds like another time, another sound, another LeToya altogether.