Kelis’ ‘Food’: Album Review

Kathy Iandoli | April 22, 2014 5:40 am
Kelis is not the first to reinvent herself, and she surely won’t be the last. We can credit Madonna as perhaps the purveyor of sharp turns when it comes to style and sound. Kelis, though, is different. Her following isn’t based on the idea of her; rather it’s deeply rooted in her full-bodied vocals and varied beat selections that have inadvertently led her to develop one of music’s least likely cult followings. Why? Because she doesn’t embody epic; she merely embodies honest. As she brings her sixth solo album Food (out today, ) to the forefront, reinvention is the obvious theme, and it’s (for the most part) for the better.

The story behind Food is that the tracks were made in an intimate little studio with Kelis and her team. And she’d cook. A lot. The Le Cordon Bleu graduate has been dabbling in the culinary arts for a while — most prominently during the time her marriage to Nas ran its course. But now she has a cookbook coming, a cooking show — you name it. Surely the foodisms would trickle into the crafting of her music. Rumor has it the songs were tagged with the names of the dishes she cooked while they were recording that specific song (i.e. “Jerk Ribs,” “Cobbler,” “Biscuits n’ Gravy,” etc.). The naming convention just stuck, and here we are. The tracks aren’t some testament to eating, but taking it philosophically, you can tie in the types of meals to the style of the song. Take the sassy lead single “Jerk Ribs,” where stripped down horn-fueled production hugs Kelis’ warm vocals or the bright and sunny cut that opens the album, aptly titled “Breakfast.”

It goes without saying that Food is a stark contrast to 2010’s Flesh Tone, where Kelis submerged her colorfully dyed head into the Dance Music movement. Once it came prepackaged as the microwaveable meal “EDM,” Ms. Rogers left it on the doorstep of an orphanage for every flash-in-the-pan act to devour.

Food is more of an amalgam of her first four projects (with hints of electro-pop), wrapped in a tight little package. The album sours, though, in the moments where the production takes a manufactured turn, like “Friday Fish Fry,” as Kelis’ husky voice over a purposely “naughty” beat sounds pretty lame. Still, those moments are rare, and for the most part Food is a balanced work.

This may not be the ultimate project after a four-year break, but Food is perhaps Kelis’ way of just getting warmed up. If we don’t lose her to the culinary world for good, then her seventh album may very well be that long-awaited one that we’ve all been yearning to hear.

Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: Kelis’ cover of Labi Siffre’s “Bless The Telephone.” The acoustic track fits perfectly with her rich vocals in a way that would make even a synthesizer weep.

Best Listened To: While sitting around a campfire making s’mores…or at Cosí over their s’mores platter that’s basically just a candle and a hunk of chocolate. First world problems.

Idolator Score: 3/5

Kathy Iandoli

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