By now we’re sure that Atlanta-based actress and singer Demetria McKinney is joining “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” for season 7. Audiences who are even vaguely familiar with McKinney’s name know her for her guest role on “House of Payne,” or as the ex-wife of Rickey Smiley on “The Rickey Smiley Show.” She has graced stages of the theatre world as both Deena in “Dreamgirls,” and Coretta Scott King, and has appeared in a number of films. Most of us, however, are much less familiar with the details of Demetria McKinney’s singing career.
McKinney has clearly been pursuing music for some time; she has released singles as early as in 2011. She cites Whitney Houston as a major motivation for wanting to become a singer. She told Rickey Smiley in an interview earlier this year that it was a tribute to Whitney she did that aided her in getting picked up by her independent label, RTD Records.
McKinney’s collection of videos on YouTube is sizable, and includes both live performances of covers of popular songs as well as professional music videos. Her single “Work With Me,” released in 2013, is a slow jam sprinkled with some pop treatments, and her voice is steady throughout. Though the song is a equipped with a good vibe, it’s mostly uneventful. The same goes for an earlier single, “Still Believe In Love,” featuring R&B great Musiq Soulchild. It has a nostalgic 90s R&B rhythm, and the video is reminiscent of a time when MTV still centered its programming around music videos, but there is still something missing. Even the aid of Musiq’s presence on the track and in the video itself is not enough the revive the energy of the song. It’s almost too old school. And for a 2013 release, too old school is just not sufficient for today’s major airwaves. You can watch “Work With Me” below:
Perhaps what McKinney needs is a suitable partner for her R&B sound to fuse with in order to create a uniqueness for audiences to latch onto. No doubt, this season of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” may attract more attention to what is accessible of McKinney’s previous work, but is it possible that that attention will hold?
Admittedly, the first video I watched of McKinney live was a satisfactory but somewhat weak introduction to who the singer is on stage. The performance of two songs, including Chaka Khan‘s “Sweet Thing,” were both pitchy at times but overall well done. A user-uploaded video of McKinney performing a hard-driving rock-and-roll-esque cover of Beyonce‘s “Drunk In Love,” however, provided a much different experience. Commanding the crowd and owning the mic, she delivers a powerful rendition of the song, making it her own with personalized ad-libs and riffs (including one in reference to Kanye West‘s “Flashing Lights”) that roused the audience. Check both of those performances out below:
Her latest single, “100,” for which a music video already exists, is a good example of 90s hip-hop with a contemporary spin, or at least a solid step in that direction. She has the quick-talking, half-sing-half-rap thing, á la Rihanna, down pat, but still launches into an infectious hook and chorus with vocal skill. The video is surely an ode to the likes of Janet Jackson and Aaliyah, whose music videos at the height of their careers always took place on futuristic and funkily lit sets and open-spaced dance floors. Also present is Da Brat, whose rap style and wardrobe in the video are reminiscent of Missy Elliott, while Demetria’s white blazer and gold necklace-turned-shirt combo create a delicate balance of 90s mid-drift centered style and contemporary edge. You can watch “100” below:
If “100” will be allowed to lead Demetria in her attempts at gaining exposure to potential new fans, all hope is not lost. While it is doubtful that we’ll hear anything from her on Top-40 radio any time soon, her spot on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” will generate social media interest, which could always point people in the direction of her music videos. In that case maybe a trial airplay period for “100” on hip-hop and R&B stations is a possibility.
It is also possible that Demetria and Porsha Williams, another Atlanta housewife who is in pursuit of a music career, could get pitted against each other in the media, as they do with most women who are pursuing similar career aspirations, which could boost exposure for both. Demetria may get more of a following, though, seeing as she actually has the ability to sing, whereas Porsha just barely manages to be able to carry a tune.
What do you think? Does Demetria McKinney have a shot at a successful music career now that she’ll be on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”?