When R&B fans think of a singer who exemplifies raw and emotional vocals, Kelly Price should come to mind. Praised by the likes of established stars Mariah Carey and Ronald Isley early in her career, Price set the bar high with her debut album Soul of a Woman; a tremendously epic rollercoaster of emotions that hears her baring her soul to critical acclaim.
However, it is Price’s sophomore album, Mirror Mirror, that became a musical bridge for new R&B fans to cross and explore the brooding and reassuring feelings of the promising star.
An epic tale of love, war, good, bad, and ugly, Mirror Mirror opens up with a strong declaration with the singer probing the question, “mirror mirror on the wall, who is the baddest diva of them all?” Affectionately inspired by pioneering soul divas, this memorandum allowed the gifted singer-songwriter to express her journey of discovering her worth and share her pride in being the woman she is with the world.
The album inspires women, and men, around the world to see the value in themselves beyond social expectations and say “enough is enough” to those who have disrespected them. Anchored by cuts like “You Should’ve Told Me” and the hit Shirley Murdock cover of “As We Lay,” Mirror Mirror delves deeper into Price’s artistry than ever before.
One of the factors that played into Mirror Mirror’s inception is the team that helped produce it. Following the release of Soul of a Woman, Price moved from T-Neck/Island Records to Def Soul. It was a move that came with a new gang of producers, including her now-longtime collaborator Shep Crawford, Warryn Campbell and Kevin Liles.
Their image for Mirror Mirror was brighter than its predecessor, and this vivid sound came with lyrical messages that showed Price’s progression as an artist. The inclusion of “As We Lay” is an example of the bold leaps Price’s team was willing to make artistically. Its narrative plays into that of the entire project in a way that shows how infidelity in a relationship can work both ways.
Another major artistic element of Price’s team was the inclusion of eclectic samples to give the album a nostalgic feel. The interlude “National Anthem,” in particular, is a daring addition to the lineup as it seamlessly ties into the rest of the project while allowing the singer to flex her commanding voice over a cinematic backing track. On another soulful note, the soapy “Married Man” is elevated by the prominent classical piece “Nadia’s Theme,” which is also the sampling result of The Young and The Restless theme song.
Price recruited J. Moss and Paul Allen of renowned production collective PAJAM to assemble the album’s second single “You Should’ve Told Me.” A song that tells the story of a woman who is unappreciated, the led-on track has hints of gospel and inspirational inflections that paint a picture of self-love and independence that cannot be deterred by any outside forces. Her gospel influence can also be heard on the heartening “Love Sets You Free,” produced by veteran producers Teddy Riley and Chucky Thompson.
Prior to her Mirror Mirror, Price had achieved success with the release of “Friend Of Mine,” a smash single about a cheating spouse and back-stabbing best friend from her debut album. The somber track soared to number one on Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. With a platinum debut album, several chart-topping features, a Grammy nomination, marriage, and children under her belt, Price seemed to be on top of the world. That is until her mother revealed a dispiriting revelation.
Price’s mother, Claudia, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. It was the second time her family had to deal with the paralyzing illness following the death of her mother-in-law years prior. “That was 1998 and it was an extremely difficult time in my life. I had just released my first album (Soul of a Woman). When it should have been an exciting time in my life, it was a draining and bittersweet one. I was trying to do the best for everyone and it just took a harsh toll on my family,” Price said in a 2016 interview. This chapter in her life, along with the notion that she was too big to be the star she is, motivated Price to release Mirror Mirror as a dedication to women who were told they weren’t enough.
Her career as an artist was stifled because of her label’s assumption that her weight would hinder her popularity. On the hit song “You Should’ve Told Me,” Price sings “You should’ve told me I wasn’t small enough / you should’ve told me I didn’t call enough / but you led me and kept me going / and we never should’ve wasted this time.” This thunderous message refutes the claims of Price’s adversaries as the singer reclaims her price over a modern R&B masterpiece.
As a whole, Mirror Mirror peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, making it Price’s highest-charting album to date, and was certified platinum less than a year later. She also received a Best Female R&B Vocal Grammy nomination for “As We Lay” at the 43rd annual ceremony.
In retrospect, Price became a voice for those who were unheard — women who were told they were too big, didn’t show enough skin or weren’t considered beautiful. Her eloquence rang out to this voiceless group, instilling lost confidence and securing Price’s crowning position in R&B history. Price released “What I Need (Give Me What I Need)” and “UnSung,” her first solo tracks in four years. Both songs are tied to Price’s upcoming project.
Listen to Kelly Price’s Mirror Mirror below.