Friday, August 11, 2006

kelis wasn't there...

(here she is)

…But I was. On first listen to ‘Kelis Was Here’ the reaction is ‘Damn, this is it!’ The desire for Kelis to hit the capital-S-followed-by-exclamation-point Superstar!-moment is very, very strong and it is almost satisfied here. Her unwillingness to take the easy route hasn’t prevented her from seizing the opportunity to have a quite-solid follow-up to ‘Bossy’, an unexpectedly funky about face to the genius new-wave silliness of ‘Milkshake.’ The album is sexy almost the whole way through whether it’s soul, hip-hop, rock or new wave. And Mr. and Mrs. Jones do their usual bizarre kinky joint… but it is a real banger this time. At times Kelis opts for straight up bizarre but always in a different way than you might expect. Witness the Latin ‘fiesta’-like instrumental break towards the end of the album. Unfortunately it’s oddness fits a bit too oddly with the rest of the tracks. Of course, she brings the quirky space-case vibe that Alt-and-B divas like Joi and Badu tap into but Kelis would never be mistaken for neo-soul (even with Saadiq on the boards) or a galactic soul-queen visiting Earth. She is urban through and through even in her most far-out journeys, spacey synthesizers are just ‘80’s versions of a futuresound. She will occasionally communicate with the mothership funk (this time quite literally on ‘Whats’ That Right There’) but she speaks via around-the-way chirps rather than psychic incense-itivities. Street smart in high heels, she can’t help but convey the ‘I ain’t takin shit but you can still tie me up’-type honey eye contact. I love the noise of the next single ‘Blindfold Me’ featuring hubby Nassir but my pick is the Shondrae backed ‘Ah Shit’ featuring Smoke in which Kelis exclaims, of course, “Ahhh shit!” but reminds us “I can make the whole song taaalllk shit!” The knocking drums and the odd muted squeak/bloop immediately hook. ‘Handful’ is a very simple track and vocal consisting mostly of Kelis closing a sing-songy rapped vocal with a soda-commercial sound of ‘buh-buh-b-buh-buh’ providing a bubbly throwback hook that you immediately want to sing along with. And she’s got lots of those moments on the album from the guilty pleasures of chanting “Fuck them bitches” to the back-and-forth with Will.I.Am (“Whats’ that right there?/ This right here?/Ain’t nothing but a little something that I got.”) to the rock-inflected vocals of “I Don’t Think So” that rhyme the words “chance” and “in my pants.” The easy listen of the Cee-lo helmed “Lil Star” works well but the standout on the chill side is the dreamy “Living Proof” with synthy high-notes over a club thump that bring up memories of Black Sheep’s ‘Strobelight Ho.’ Although “Weekend” is an annoying mis-step Will.I.Am proves again that his non-BEP tunes can be unqualified successes in respectable pop. And that pretty much describes the whole album. Unfortunately I have to wait until the official release for a second listen but it will be the second of many, many many. Bet.

Track and Producer list
1. Intro
2. Bossy / Shondrae
3. What’s That Right There / Will.I.Am
4. Till The Wheels Fall Off / Will.I.Am
5. Living Proof / Raphael Saadiq
6. Blindfold Me / Polow, Sean Garrett, Dr. Don
7. Goodbyes
8. Trilogy / Scott Storch
9. Circus / Raphael Saadiq
10. Weekend / Will.I.Am
11. Like You / Knobody
12. Ah Shit / Shondrae
13. Lil Star / Cee-Lo
14. I Don’t Think So / Dr. Luke
15. Handful / Sean Garrett
16. Appreciate Me / Damon Elliott
17. Have a Nice Day / Sean Garrett
18. (Hidden Track) Fuck Them Bitches / Will.I.Am

Good tunes that already leaked…

The banging second single…
Kelis, Nas (produced by Polow, Sean Garrett, Dr. Don) – Blindfold Me

The addictive hidden track…
Kelis (produced by Will.I.Am) – Fuck Them Bitches

The one with the opera sample…
Kelis (produced by Knobody) – Like You