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15 May, 2014@8:36 pm

One hit wonders are typically a comment on a moment, a snapshot in time, a reflection of the collective unconsciousness made conscious through music. The work of the artists who make these meteoric tunes often relegated to bargain bins as they exit the top ten singles charts. The ever forgetful pop music consumer moves on to whatever the next new hot track is, unwilling to accept that the musicians behind these hits are actually artists at all, and may have something more meaningful to contribute than another club banger. With her most recent album, Food, you can almost hear Kelis pushing the rolling pin over the countertop to meld what you remember of her into something new, referencing old soul, creating a new electro funk melange.

Kelis could have been another Frankie Goes to Hollywood cum Dramarama via the culture of clubs, if not Culture Club. Over the last decade plus, most of her success has come from enlisting the top talents in clubland production: Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Pharrell, Rusko and more have reworked her songs in the past to some success. For the new album, she worked with Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio and released the album on Ninjatune. A decidedly more underground approach than her previous efforts, which pays off. Her saccharine swooning finds a place sitting atop his mix of horns and keys, that is as much a love letter to the Stax sound and southern soul, as it is of the northern soul sound of her newly adopted home in the UK.

The song that launched her career made the majority conscious of her lovely figure as much as her vocal talents, and while the masses demand sex appeal from their pop stars, it almost always comes at the cost of acknowledging musical talent in the same person. Talent that Kelis throws front and center with the single “Jerk Ribs”, a decidedly lactose free soul jam, that barely registers as a pop tune, but rather just works as a song. Kelis still has the looks and more importantly a powerful voice that may finally be getting the music it deserves.

If you know the name Kelis, then you know the song that made her famous, you probably cannot think of anything except for the infectious Pharrell produced jam, her unforgettable hook, and the sweaty, front-yard imagery of jiggly bits and bananas when you hear mention of her name. After you hear the standout track “Runnin’”, lyrics about boys and yards may no longer be the first thing you think about when you hear the name Kelis. And let’s not forget that she was “wifey in white T” to one of the greatest rappers of all time, at least for long enough to bear his child. Yes that’s her and Nas’ child, Knight, opening up this album, talking about his mom’s cooking. The second half of the album is where it really takes off. She gets funkier on “Hooch”, thanks to some amazing horn arrangements. Most of the tracks are referential in the best way, containing bits and pieces of sounds that you recognize, but cannot instantly place. The only real cover is “Bless the Telephone”, the original by Labi Siffre was the source material for the amazing RJD2 track “Making Days Longer”.

You might not realize that Kelis’ new album Food is her fifth artist album, she has been releasing music since 1999. Sustaining a level of popularity in Europe that has eluded her stateside, making the Ninjatune signing even more interesting. Food is a foray into pop by one of the greatest labels of the last thirty years, but instead of making Kelis force her vocals to work over avant garde trip hop that is their standard, the powers at Ninjatune allowed an artist to finally find her own original recipe over an album. A real album, in a time of disposable singles, with songs that compliment one of the best, and most underappreciated voices in music.

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1 Responses to "Kelis – “Food” (Review)"
  • Hodges says:

    Only track I cared for was Hooch.

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