Kelis: Glistening But Who's Listening?


"We don't want her to do the chavtastic David Guetta thing, we want her to stick the heel of her shoe up his arse"

Once upon a time I wrote an angry letter to Tim Noakes at Dazed&Confused magazine contesting his very negative review of Kelis, calling her “an old milkshaker”. Because milkshakes, multicoloured dreads and millionaires aside, Kelis is one of the sassiest, most modern-to-the-minute and high quality black female acts of the last ten years.

Impressed with my enthusiastic, infantile but convincing defence case for the singer, which I forget now, Tim kindly wrote back to me with a 400 word letter apologising earnestly and attaching a vintage copy of Dazed with Kelis on the cover to testify their one-time alliance with her music. (Rare for an associate editor of an insuperable mag like Dazed - I think I must have scared him a bit!)

Kelis has been a pop heroine of mine since pre-pubescence. She captured my imagination from the start, I was twelve and she released Caught Out There (I Hate You So Much Right Now). With her expletives, overbearing self-confidence and multicoloured afro, she was the smash hit brainchild (and key lover) of Pharrell Williams, and she just won me over completely.


It was my first year at university when her 4th studio album Was Here was released, and listening to it again tonight, it is just stunning. So fresh, so consistent, it's one of the most overlooked R’n’B albums of all time, including the subdued hits Bossy, Blindfold Me as well as the summery anthem Lil’ Star, it is just perfect. Dark, sassy, smooth, edgy, chimey and uplifting in parts, inexplicably full of gritty depth in others. Kelis is one mighty fine beast.

After a break of some years, Kelis is back. The new song Acapella hasn’t quite settled with me yet. Its mainstream dance beat and soul-searcher rhythm certainly marks a new direction. Kelis has never been scared of odd side-line projects (a good example is Finest Dreams with Richard X, and she’s also working on a duet with Annie Lennox for the new Eurythmics album). But a bit Like Kelly Rowland, Estelle and the rest, she seems to have jumped on the David Guetta chav-wagon. This saddens me, for while we all know that Kelly Rowland has to avoid the towering shadow of Beyonce, Kelis is much sexier and dark-hearted, we don't want her to do the David Guetta thing, we want her to stick the heel of her shoe up his arse.

I’m sure her difficult divorce with Nas has been at the heart of her chart absence. But I’m also sure she can pull it all together next year with the new album. Check out Acapella on YouTube now.

Some other tracks that you must own by Kelis:

Good Stuff (on the topic of her sexual performance, Kelis sings, "If you don't like it - send it back in 30 days"?!)
Young, Fresh n’ New (the heaviest Pharrell deep-synth orgasm on the planet)
Goodbyes (a slowy number with a beautiful piano intro, "when that cab door closes - I'm in it")
Blindfold Me (Kelis at her sexual peak, sample of small children giggling - just wrong, but so right)
Millionaire (you all know it - one of her best chart hits - to the extent that it's often to be found on unsuspecting indie kids ipods)


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