Let’s cut right to the chase. Last night (May 30) in New York City, Kelly Rowland sang “Dirty Laundry,” her confessional new ballad about living in the shadow of Beyoncé off her upcoming album, Talk A Good Game. But she didn’t cry on stage.
At a recent show in Washington, D.C., the singer broke down while singing the song, which speaks of an abusive ex-boyfriend who used Bey’s fame in mind games against Rowland. She even had to stop in the middle of the song, which was produced by her tour mate The-Dream, to pull herself together.
So while there were no tears in New York, that doesn’t mean emotions weren’t running high during the performance. “This song started a lot of stuff,” Rowland said to the crowd as the first few chords of the song played. “This is my truth.”
In the two weeks since the song was released online, Rowland’s gotten a bit of press for her open letter, which sheds light on what it was really been like for her to see her best friend hit the big time, all the while she struggled with things deeper than fame. Unsurprisingly, “Dirty Laundry” has also led to speculation as to the identity of the ex Rowland sings about. There’s been so much speculation that Rowland’s ex-fiancé, former football player Roy Williams, felt he needed to put some rumors to rest.
— roy williams (@roywilliams31) May 15, 2013
Rowland has been candid about the guy’s identity and continued to stay mum at the show saying only, “I think everyone has their form of dirty laundry. I decided to air mine out.”
Sitting on a stool with a towel in her hand, Rowland lamented about the past. With her eyes shut tight she sang, “When you’re soaked in tears for years, it never airs out/When you make pain look this good, it never wears out.”
Throughout the song Rowland’s voice went in and out, like she was struggling to keep it together. It was unclear whether this was raw emotion or part of the theatricality of the performance. But after singing, ”He hit the window like it was me until it shattered/He pulled me out, he said, ‘Don’t nobody love you but me. ‘Not your mama, not your daddy and especially not Bey’,” she just stopped. The music cut out and she lowered her head, her hair covering her face. She turned away from the crowd, who began to chant her name in hopes to rally her back.
A moment or two later, Rowland composed herself and started right where she had left off, singing the last lines of the final verse a cappella: “He turned me against my sister/I miss her.” The emotion seemed to well up in her voice as she struggled to get the last word out.
Once the song was over, Rowland wiped her brow with her towel, got up and let the crowd know that the girl she’s singing about in that song is not her anymore. “He had me, but no longer,” she said. “A victim, I am not.”
The rest of the show served as a motivational pep talk for any woman out there who isn’t getting the love she deserves.
After her Destiny’s Child medley, which included “Jumpin’, Jumpin’,” “Survivor” and “Cater 2 U,” Rowland let all the ladies out there know that it’s okay to cater to your man, but sometimes you have to tell them what you want. From there, she launched into her sexy new single, “Kisses Down Low,” which included four male backup dancers showing just how low Rowland wanted them to go. (The-Dream, too, utilized a bevvy of backup dancers last night, clad in mid-’90s overalls.)
Rowland teased other new songs from Talk A Good Game, like the Pharrell-produced track “Street Life” and “Gone,” which relies heavily on a sample of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” She only sang a snippet of each, but both of them kept with the same female empowerment message. Rowland is proud to tell the world she’s no longer a victim. Now she just has to hope the rest of us believe her.