Over the course of her extensive 15 year recording career, Kelis has tried on more musical styles than there are sauces in the condiments aisle, and yet it’s still very easy to have a selective memory. She is known for bringing all the boys to the yard with the cheeky provocation of ‘Milkshake’, the swaggering riffery of ‘Trick Me’, and her chart-topping collaborations with André 3000, Calvin Harris and N.E.R.D, too. Think of Kelis, and the first things to spring to mind are pop smashers; the vocal hook that propelled Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s ‘Got Your Money’, launching Kelis into her first record deal and a long-standing creative relationship with Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo’s production duo The Neptunes.
With these flags in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Kelis’ sixth album ‘Food’ prompts adjectives like ‘different’ and ‘mature’ – but in reality Kelis has been inspired by soulful, rich music like this ever since she sang in a church choir in Harlem aged 13. Kelis has always followed her instinct, to admittedly varying effect. It’s this fearlessness that makes her more than just a carbon-copy pop star – Kelis is an artist. Whether drastically changing direction and working with David Guetta and will.i.am on fifth album ‘Flesh Tones’, or deciding to enroll at prestigious culinary school Le Cordon Bleu and presenting her own cookery programme, Saucy & Sweet, Kelis Rogers answers to nobody. These days she’s not only a musician, but a trained saucier. On ‘Food’, her kitchen is Ninja Tunes, and TV on The Radio’s Dave Sitek is her ideal sous-chef match. It’s a statement of alternative intent on paper, and it manifests itself on ‘Food’ wonderfully.
Album standouts ‘Jerk Ribs’ and ‘Biscuits n’ Gravy’ are as off-kilter as anything in the American singer’s back-catalogue, but they’re also relaxed in delivery and powered forth by retro-brass and timeless sounds instead of grinding dance beats. It sounds more like the laid-back moments from debut album ‘Kaleidoscope’ than anything else, and also picks up on, and tones down the groovier notes of 2003’s ‘Tasty’. ‘Breakfast’ – a track title that Walt Jnr. would heartily approve of – doesn’t feature the hyped new rapper of the moment; the guest vocals come from Kelis’ son Knight instead. ‘Food’ is a warming, comforting, record cooked together with love, and while more understated than the hits she’s renowned for, it’s an album that comes entirely from the heart.
Six albums in, Kelis picks up all her various threads of genre, and brings them together into a spaghetti of summery, humid music that sounds as classic as it does subtly experimental. Anybody arriving at this album expecting 13 ‘Milkshake’s will be sorely disappointed, but everyone else will hear Kelis at her most effortless.
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The R&B queen gives Suffolk the perfect taste of her brand new record, ‘Food’.