Kelis has had her share of ups and downs throughout her career, but nevertheless has managed to stay in the spotlight with each album release. With The Neptunes at her side, she came out the gate with her first LP, Kaleidoscope, and it’s lead single “Caught Out There” solidifying her position as “the first girl to scream on a track” (eat your heart out, Beyonce). She attempted to release it’s follow-up, Wanderland, however the label shelved the record in the U.S, only releasing it overseas. Instead, she came back with a vengeance with Tasty, which took a few songs from Wanderland, adding in the club-smash “Milkshake”, as well as new collaborations with Andre 3000 and Nas. Leaving The Neptunes, Star Trak, and Arista behind, Kelis lands on Jive for her latest effort, Kelis Was Here.
By now you’ve found yourself in a bouncing crowd with “Bossy” playing in the background, Kelis’ summertime girl-power anthem featuring Too Short. She instead gets submissive on the follow-up single, “Blindfold Me”, which re-unites her with lover Nas for a dark, Timbaland-inspired club track, produced by newcomer Sean Garrett. Her split personality creeps in on much of the album, as she is found constantly changing styles and sounds throughout its lengthy 17 tracks. For instance, the vibey sounds of “Til The Wheels Fall Off” channel Jamiroquai, while the Will.I.Am produced “What’s That Right There” has heavy P-Funk influence, with the shimmying of cocoa pops, respectively. Will is tapped again later for the Debbie Deb inspired “Weekend”, sounding like a leftover from Elephunk.
Kelis seems like she’s at her best when she’s just being herself, rather than trying to prove how bold she is. She sound the most at home on songs like the sultry “Goodbyes” or the breezy “Trilogy”, both of which tap her Neptunes roots, despite the fact the producers are not involved with this album. One of the album’s most unique and infectious grooves is “Aww Shit”, produced by newcomer Bangladesh, also responsible for “Bossy”.
But what holds this mesh of mediocre songs back is much of the remainder of the album’s material, which really gives insight into Kelis’ crazy. The unbearable “Circus” finds her, um, rapping about industry woes, while the creepy “Like You” paints her as a stalker – one that sings over sampled yodeling, no less. Out of nowhere comes the rocked-out, “I Don’t Think So”, sounding completely out of place with the rest of the record, which is then followed by the lousy “Start The Commotion” rip-off, “I’m A Handful”. By the time the closing track, “Have A Nice Day” comes in - a seven minute Latin-tinged opus that goes off on several different tangents, it’s evident that this girl is skitzo.
Kelis Was Here definitely has its moments, but the hot-and-nutty singer has to pick a style and stick with it. This bi-polar album shifts gears all over the place, definitely convincing listeners that her outrageous personality is anything but put on. There is talent here, but Kelis needs to get focused before she confuses her fans into not caring anymore.
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