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1 January, 2001@12:00 am

Known to most as the “I Hate You So Much Right Now Girl”, she should be better known as the first act executive produced by The Neptunes for their own Star Trak Entertainment imprint. While this is her second album, (the first best known for it’s irate single “Caught Out There”), Kelis is experiencing the classic Neptunes blessing/curse, just as ‘Clipse did with their vaulted 1999 debut Exclusive Audio Footage, and more recently as the N.E.R.D. duo themselves did with their scrapped keyboard version of In Search Of…, which was released overseas, before being re-recorded with live instruments, and released stateside. A similar case has caught Kelis’ sophomore release, Wanderland, which saw the light of day on virtually all other continents except North America.

Meanwhile, those brave enough to pay a little extra for import copies, Wanderland will pretty much please any and all Neptune junkies, as Chad and Pharrell produced the entire album. In a way, it plays much like N.E.R.D.’s In Search Of…, but from the female perspective, with many of the same themes revisited. While not as consistent as the N.E.R.D. album, it definitely has its moments. The lead single, “Young, Fresh n’ New” kicks the door open with its raucous guitars and swirling fire alarms, but probably didn’t cross-over as well as “Caught Out There” thanks to it’s theme: “When you think about what’s holding you, it’s relatives and clothes / leave it all behind… / Run away from home”. But damn, the shit bangs.

Even better is “Popular Thug”, as the ever-cool Pusha T (Of Clipse) plays the lead character, and Kelis tries to reason with herself as to why she’s involved with him. Brilliantly, the Neptunes arrange a hook of “But you… make my record skip… make my record skip… make my record skip”, that actually sounds like a skipping record, but remains crystal clean. The sultry “Scared Money” is also excellent, laced with steamy sexual innuendo; sounding like it could fit amongst N.E.R.D.’s “Run To The Sun” and “Tape You”, or on any late-night lovin’ mix tape. This vibe is further explored on Kelis and Pharrell’s duet, “Shooting Stars”, which also fares well.

But like In Search Of…, the album does have it’s flaws, which again lie in some badly penned lyrics. While “Daddy” plays well melodically, there’s the unfortunate situation of Kelis’ Blondie inspired raps, which are like Chinese water torture to the ear. Then there’s “Perfect Day”, which for some reason attempts at crossing over into the world of 80′s hair rock. Thankfully not all of the throwback jams are bad, as each “Easy Come, Easy Go”, “Flashback” and “Digital World”, are each deliciously cheesy.

But songs like the strange “Mr. U.F.O. Man” and “Little Suzie” will still leave listeners scratching their heads as to exactly what this girl’s motivation is, and who is responsible for the words coming out of her mouth. There’s not much to pick from after that, as “Get Even” brings back the old (and tired) angry Neptunes’ beats, and “Junkie” again revisits N.E.R.D.’s fascination with addicts of any kind.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the lyrics sound forced in some places, or are simply corny in others, there’s no denying musically what great producers & songwriters The Neptunes are. In the prime of their careers, despite the fact that this album has been shelved otherwise (to be replaced in March with Amphibious), this is definitely something for followers of The Neptunes sound to check out. But hopefully, Amphibious will correct Wanderland’s mistakes.

  Mixtape D.L.
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