Ten years after she appeared, out of nowhere onto daytime radio yelling ‘I Hate You So Much Right Now!’ on her first hit ‘Caught Out there’ Kelis Rogers has been a force to be reckoned with. Her profile has been up and down over ensuing the decade (her second album wasn’t even released in the U.S. and it performed poorly here) but she’s been responsible for some great tracks -‘Milkshake’ ‘Good Stuff’ ‘Bossy’ and her collaboration with Ol’ Dirty Bastard on ‘Got Your Money.’ As well as O.D.B. she’s worked with a huge collection of the Great (N.E.R.D, Andre 3000) the good (Moby) and a few ‘what the hell…? (Enrique Iglesias).
This is album number five and I find myself making the strange comparison with Teenage Fanclub. Whilst it might be argued that the only thing she and TFC have in common is making some great music, that’s the point of it. Both acts have produced some utterly brilliant stuff over the years, that has been classic and proved the soundtrack to myself and other people’s lives. Yet both have also produced strong stuff of their own -and yet at times seem to be losing momentum when they ape other people too much. In the case of TFC they lost momentum when they started to ape Neil Young too much over Dinosaur Jr. In Kelis’ case, it’s wondering why she’s trying to copy the poppier sounds of the last year (Lady Gaga, la Roux).
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this album. There isn’t -and there’s some really cool, fun tunes on here – single ‘Acapella’ you’ve probably heard by now, and I don’t doubt that both ‘Home’ and ‘4th of July (Fireworks)’ will follow it into the charts too. Who she works with his decision, and if she decided that she wasn’t going to work with the Neptunes, but instead the likes of Benny Benassi, Will.I.Am and David Guetta that’s her business. This is much more dancey and poppy than the Hip-Hop/Urban slant of her earlier work, and maybe that’s why I feel a bit miffed. She’s perfectly at liberty not to remake Tasty and Kaleidoscope.
But I just feel that there’s not an awful lot of Kelis in here.
When the reviews of the noughties (what the hell are we calling this decade anyway? Nearly bloody over and we still haven’t decided), hopefully much of the music that will be focused on as well as the ubiquitous guitar music will be American R’n’ B and Hip-Hop. Along with the UK takes on much of this, which have helped spawn, variously, grime and dubstep (and trip-hop in the previous decade), it has been a stunning time for much of this. And sure, there’s been a lot of guitar music, but if I’d been at Glastonbury in 2008, Jay-Z would definitely have been a higher priority than the flippin’ Kings Of Leon.
Amongst the most amazing records that Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, known as The Neptunes have produced is this: the debut album from Kelis. It was going to be this or Tasty, but I think the wake-up call this provided for me, as I failed to get truly into either UK garage or Nu-metal in 2000, wins it over. Early in 2000 the chorus of ‘I hate you so much right now’ from ‘Caught Out There’ ruled the airwaves. A punk as anything attitude, and suddenly r’n’b wasn’t about soppy ballads (never got it on with new jack swing), it was sassy, it was sexy, it was in your face and I love(d) it. I’m betting that Beyonce may well have learned a bit from Kelis.
The follow-up single ‘Good Stuff’ showed that as well as being a rapper she was also a singer – at a time when it seemed you were one or the other but not both. Album cuts like ‘Mafia’ and ‘Roller Rink’ showed very different sides. As indie seemed to be increasingly about very stodgy rock -hello Travis and Stereophonics -this was where it was at. Not on the album – but I almost wish it was- was Kelis’ collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard ‘Got Your Money.’ Here was a lass who mattered.
The follow-up album didn’t cut the mustard, but by the end of 2003 she was back with Tasty. Which she most definitely was, posing suggestively with a lollipop, and causing much water cooler discussion about what exactly ‘Milkshake’ was about…Hmm. At the time the album seemed to be overshadowed by both Destiny’s Child and Eminem, but I feel this has stood the test of time remarkably well.