Keri Hilson

Keri Hilson comes through in The Clutch.

As a member of songwriting fraternity The Clutch, Atlanta's Keri Hilson has been writing hit songs for artists like Britney Spears and Ciara for years. But she first gained fame as a singer in her own right on Timbaland's 2007 grammatically curious "The Way I Are," arguably the most addictive single on the radio that year. Her recently released solo debut In A Perfect World... features Lil Wayne on the hit "Turnin' Me On," and Kanye West and Ne-Yo fight over her in the video for "Knock You Down." Though pushed back for more than a year, the album has sold north of 200,000 copies, making it the surprise hit of the spring and ensuring Hilson's place on the short list of promising new R&B female talents. She is also a curious pop specimen: a strict Christian, Hilson clearly faces pressure to sex up her image in an increasingly tawdry industry, and as something of an R&B intellectual, she surely also is expected to dumb down her songs. Admirably, she has stood up to both challenges, keeping her music and image fresh and inventive. Before long, she could well outshine Keyshia Cole, her tourmate and R&B's reigning young queen.

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