- 29 Sep 06
It is hard to shake off a sense of anticlimax, even following repeated listens.
This is Kelis’ fourth album, and she’ll be hoping to prove that she’s capable of making two good 'uns in a row. Her masterful 1999 debut Kaleidoscope was followed by the underwhelming Wanderland, but she managed to bounce back in fine style on 2003’s Tasty – delivering two of the year’s best singles (‘Milkshake’ and ‘Trick Me’, naturally) in the process.
So, was the disappointing sophomore effort an uncharacteristic blip, or will she remain an artist prone to inconsistency? Kelis Was Here does not answer these questions convincingly, but it is hard to shake off a sense of anticlimax, even following repeated listens.
There is plenty to enjoy, but perhaps nothing as stellar as the aforementioned singles, or the highlights from Kaleidoscope. It’s tempting to put this down to the absence of the Neptunes, whose fingerprints have been all over Kelis’ best work.
There is a wide array of producers on this record, and the end results are predictably mixed. Perhaps it would have been wiser to let one or two knob-twiddlers dominate – and on the evidence of his three contributions, Shondrae Crawford (best known for his work with Ludacris) would have been an obvious candidate. ‘Handful’ is a stomping, bass-heavy, minimalist delight: monotonous in the very best sense of the word, while the single ‘Bossy’ repeats the familiar Kelis trick of interspersing childlike, almost-nursery rhyme passages with sexier R’n’B cooing, to devastating effect.
The best Shondrae-assisted track of all is ‘Aww Shit!’ – a sparse, dark groove, set against what appears to be a cross between an electronic cat-fight and an ambulance siren.
There are a handful of other strong tracks: the languorous ballad ‘Circus’ juxtaposes Kelis’ cool flow with some woozy, almost country-ish guitars. ‘Goodbyes’ is a soft bed of piano and synthetic strings, with some gorgeously melancholic electronic spirals.
Alas, there’s rather too much by-the-numbers crunk-‘n’-b, with none of the dextrous rhythms that Kelis exhibited in the past. But fear not: if her career pattern continues, she’ll be delivering another masterpiece in a couple of years’ time.