Review: K. Michelle’s ‘I’m The Problem’ Highlights One Of The Genre’s Biggest Issue – Artist Retention


K. Michelle is trotting over to the greener pastures of country music. Her final R&B album, ‘I’m The Problem,’ is a bittersweet goodbye to the genre’s most underappreciated gems. Read contributing writer Flisadam Pointer’s full review of the project below. 

As the age-old saying goes, eventually, all good things must come to an end. However, for K. Michelle, her departure from R&B isn’t necessarily a hard stop on her musical endeavors. 

Although the release of her latest album, I’m The Problem, marked the conclusion of this chapter in her career, fans haven’t heard the last of the songbird just yet. Under the new moniker Puddin, the classically trained musician will leave the genre behind for the greener pastures of country music. This shift shouldn’t surprise those in tune with K. Michelle over the years. For some time now, she’s sprinkled country blends into past projects. In March, she collaborated with Justin Champagne for their joint record “Country Love Song.” Hell, the singer has even been spotted with Billy Ray Cyrus, Lee Ann Womack, and Blanco Brown

Still, the idea of K. Michelle being a distant memory is enough to bring any true R&B lover down to their knees. I’m The Problem is a 19-track bittersweet goodbye to the genre’s most underappreciated gems where, for one last time, K. Michelle gave the industry and all her naysayers her ass to kiss. I’m The Problem is not just for the recording artist’s die-hard super fans, the Rebels, but for anyone who has ever claimed to know her. Each side of her, K. Michelle, Kimberly Pate, and Puddin, appears throughout the album, making it the ultimate creative sign-off. 

I’m The Problem is K. Michelle’s most intentional album to date. While it would’ve been easier to slap together 12 recordings from her vault and call it a day, especially considering all of the hardship the industry has forced her to endure, K. Michelle has too much artistic integrity for that. Instead, she was sure to dig her rhinestone cowboy boot deep into this album. On I’m The Problem, K. Michelle simultaneously demonstrated why she is a singer’s singer with precise songwriting, masterful musicianship, and tactical versatility while she highlighted the genre’s most significant issue – artist retention. 

No ifs, ands, or buts about it: K. Michelle is a singer’s singer. As she pointed out in “Wherever The D May Land,” lately, there’s been an influx of “whisper vocalists.” There’s nothing wrong with taking a gentler approach to music. However, power vocalists such as K. Michelle are necessary to maintain balance. The Memphis native’s precise songwriting served two purposes on I’m The Problem. The first was to allow her to flex her vocal range (whistle tone, falsetto, yodel, crescendo, and more). The second was to showcase her beloved authenticity. As an album, I’m The Problem gave K. Michelle the clarity to view her life from another perspective, where she steps outside of her past perpetual victimhood to acknowledge how she contributed to her romantic difficulties. In return, she was able to, in the project’s writing, reflect this transformative revelation. Each track is intensely personal, so much so that, at times, the audience could feel as if they’re intruding on a private conversation.

K. Michelle’s most undervalued asset is her masterful musicianship. From the piano features, carefully curated production choices, and supporting instrumentation, I’m The Problem brought that skill to the forefront. On her official Instagram page, K. Michelle opened up about the album’s formulation. “If you know me, you know everything about me—my life and what I go through. I think I ran from music so much – over the opinions the past couple of years of what people think about me or say. I’ve been working on this album for two and a half / three years,” wrote the star. 

The period spent crafting this project shows in every note played and sung throughout the project. K. Michelle made tough executive calls to ensure filler tracks or duplicate tracks, such as “Man In Diguse,” were removed, and all remaining tracks followed the theme, which shows how meticulous K. Michelle is when it comes to her art. 

The critical takeaway from I’m The Problem is just how versatile K. Michelle is as a talent. Her professional pockets know no limit. By way of her past singles “Where Ever The D May Land” with Gloss Up, “Blame Yourself,” and  “Scooch” displayed that she understands what R&B fans want. “Wherever The D May Land” shows her awareness of the growing movement of younger acts coming out of her home state. “Blame Yourself” is for the grown and mature side of the genre. “Scooch” is the commercial radio-ready R&B that initially led K. Michelle to dominate the airwaves nationwide. I’m The Problem has all the bases covered. It has ballads (“This Man” and “You”), relevant collaborations (“Wherever The D May Land”), commercial appeal (“Scooch”), and cross-genre shake-ups (“Tennessee”). These points highlight the genre’s most significant issue – artist retention. According to her, since finding success, K. Michelle’s desire to further explore her gift has been suppressed by label executives, fans, and more. Eventually, the stifling grew into resentment of the genre and a longing to cut from it. Truth be told, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the industry played a pivotal part in K. Michelle’s transition into country music. The genre needs to create space for current and future acts to break from tradition and allow them to explore all of the sound’s possibilities.     

Unfortunately, I’m The Problem also fully displayed K. Michelle’s artistic Achilles’ heel. Despite her efforts to make the album cohesive, it doesn’t arrive at that point. Upon first glance, the “Lot Of Nothing” interludes appear to separate the tracklist into three sections. But going by storytelling, only the middle grouping, which includes the songs “Big Deal,” “Wherever The D May Land,” “Hurt Sh*t,” “I Cheat,” and “Gangsta In Me,” make sense if you remove “Only One.” Opening tracks “Memphis,” “No Pain,” and “Blame Yourself” are also ideally linked. K. Michelle’s albums often struggle when it comes to sequencing. Sonically, each project is mixed beautifully, but with her keen attention to detail regarding what makes the final tracklist, she tends to drop the ball when laying out the project’s running order. On her classic album, Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart, K. Michelle presented the same struggle. I’m The Problem, K. Michelle repeated the problem.

Although it struggles with cohesion, I’m The Problem demonstrates why K. Michelle is a singer’s singer with precise songwriting, masterful musicianship, and tactical versatility while highlighting the genre’s artist retention issue. I’m The Problem is the end of an era with K. Michelle going out on a high note. Based on the closing track, you can rest assured that as Puddin, she will carry her soulful legacy into country music.

Take a listen to what the fans had to say in their own words.


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