Keri Hilson caused quite a stir when she announced her sophomore album’s title, No Boys Allowed. Some folks took the title literally and even questioned why she collaborated with several men on the album. However, she made it clear what the album title represented.
“It’s not about excluding men,” she said in a press release. “It’s more about women understanding that there comes a time in your life when you want a man. A real man. A grown-up. Not a boy. And that’s not a bad thing.”
Hilson launched her No Boys Allowed era in September 2010 with “Breaking Point,” a raw and honest ballad that finds her on the brink of giving up on her lover who has done nothing but test her patience.
Although it didn’t amass the same success as her follow-up single and female empowerment anthem “Pretty Girl Rock,” it still gave the world a taste of the emotion and subject matter that shaped her album. The latter tune, produced by Chuck Harmony, peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. The remaining singles (“One Night Stand” featuring Chris Brown and “Lose Control” featuring Nelly) didn’t make an impact on the favored chart.
On December 21, 2010, Hilson released No Boys Allowed. It debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200. While No Boys Allowed fell short of its predecessor In A Perfect World on the chart (peaked at No. 9), the album made up in first week sales (100,200 copies vs. 94,000 copies).
While In A Perfect World was on the safe side in terms of the music, No Boys Allowed found the singer-songwriter more confident and unapologetic about her emotions. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of No Boys Allowed, here’s a look at the highly underrated album’s five best non-singles.
On “Breaking Point,” Hilson was fed up with her man’s shenanigans. However, on the next track, she finds herself regretting a past relationship that she calls a “Beautiful Mistake.”
“Damn, I wish that cupid’s arrow never hit / Never went through me, through me / I wish we never crossed the line / I wish I never gave you this booty,” she sings over a bouncy production helmed by her close collaborator Timbaland.
Hilson’s vocal delivery on “Beautiful Mistake” affirms that she was OK enough to start reflecting on her past experiences. She basked in her sorrows on “Breaking Point,” before gaining a fuller understanding on “Beautiful Mistake.”
“Gimmie What I Want”
As Hilson said, No Boys Allowed wasn’t about dismissing men. It was about outgrowing the immature guys who she refers to as boys. “Gimmie What I Want” sounds like an interest meeting for those who are ready to show Hilson that they are mature enough for her to entertain. “Okay boys, class is now in session / Lessons one through forever / Always give us what we want,” Hilson flirtatiously whispers in the intro, before proceeding to outline her expectations in the bedroom. “Where my sexy, sexy fellas with that money in their pocket / Who can make me, make me holla / Keep me screamin’ like an opera,” she sings.
“Gimmie What I Want” is a confidence booster at its best. Here, Hilson shows that she is comfortable with her sexuality and knows what it takes to stimulate her in more ways than one.
Sometimes you don’t really know the person you’re in love with until after a breakup. As blissful as love can be, it can also be blinding. “Toy Soldier” is Hilson’s battle cry as she comes to terms with her man not being what he presented himself to be. “He said he’d had been to the battlefield, my heart is safe with him / All my trust I gave it to him / So I guess I fell in love, I fell in love with a toy soldier,” Hilson sings over a marching percussion that is paired with mellow piano chords. There are moments in the song, particularly in the chorus, when Hilson’s vocals sound restrained as if she’s defeated from combat.
“Bahm Bahm (Do It Once Again)/ I Want You”
Hilson’s prolific songwriting extended beyond her music. She was known for penning tracks for all sorts of pop acts like Britney Spears (“Gimme More”) and Pussycat Dolls (“Wait A Minute”). On “Bahm Bahm (Do It Once Again),” Hilson steps outside of the R&B realm to experiment with reggae-tinged production, crafted by Polow Da Don. She recruited St. Thomas-born duo R. City, the masterminds behind Sean Kingston’s “Take You There” and Rihanna’s “Man Down,” to pen the lyrics for the flirty number. “When you grind up on me/ Love up on me, touch up on me / Do it once again,” she sings on the melodic banger. The song leads into “I Want You,” a praiseworthy interlude where Hilson declares that she is ready to have some one-on-one fun. “Tell me, pretty baby, if you wanna make love tonight,” she sings.
“All the Boys”
Anyone who asked why Hilson named her album No Boys Allowed, “All the Boys” provided an answer. Co-written by John Legend, “All The Boys”is Hilson’s dissertation that examines her trials and tribulations with love. A wise and refined Hilson cogitates about her teenage relationships, recognizing that she didn’t know what true love was until she met her soul mate. “After all the boys that I thought I loved before I didn’t know what love was / Til you knocked on my door,” she croons.
Honorable Mention: “Lie to Me”
The truth can be hard to digest at times and sometimes it’s easier to hide from it. On “Lie to Me,” which appears on the deluxe edition, Hilson begs her man to tell her falsehoods to keep her heart safe. Deep down, she knows that he has been unfaithful. “Just tell me a lie, fool me, babe/ Tell me another lie / Baby, you can start my saying / Tell me that you love me, baby,” she pleads over a thumping Timbaland production.
10 Years Later
No Boys Allowed is damn-near a flawless album from start to finish and deserves all its flowers. Hilson undoubtedly showcased her range as an artist and songwriter, as she pushed the envelope with her production selections.
She even surprised and delighted with a couple of hidden interludes that made the listening experience even more enjoyable. For fans of Hilson, it’s hard to believe that Hilson hasn’t released a proper album since then. With no clear sign of a new LP, it only makes her devotees hold this impressive collection closer to their hearts.
Revisit No Boys Allowed by Keri Hilson below.