After a decade of innovation that electrified urban music, Missy Elliott and Timbaland have mostly gone their separate ways on The Cookbook. Save for a couple of tracks, Missy made this disappointing album on her own.
Of course, it's a letdown only by comparison with her five previous, groundbreaking efforts. There are still enough singles to last the summer -- one, "Irresistible Delicious," which finds Missy trading a Brit patois with Slick Rick, is as nastily brilliant as her finest work. And "Remember When," produced by Misdemeanor herself, is another in a long line of exquisite ballads that are an unheralded part of her legacy. But largely deprived of Timba's futuristic funk, The Cookbook lets Missy see how R&B's other half lives: crunk-and-B collaborations, unknown producers -- even an American Idol cameo (luckily, the relatively benign Fantasia). The dulled edge is audible in the lyrics as well: On the self-pitying "My Struggles," Missy slurs, "Y'all don't really know how much liquor I guzzled." Maybe not, but her first serious misstep is likely to inspire more heavy drinking.