Category Archives: Kelis

Review: Kelis, Food

opinion by PETER TABAKIS

Earlier last month, Kelis Rogers opened her debut SXSW gig with a rendition of “Feeling Good.” Augmented with a bright horn section and a pair of background singers, her take was a stirring, if minor, facsimile of the classic. This is no slight to Kelis as a live performer, nor to her instrument, a deep and sultry mezzo. “Feeling Good” belongs to one artist, and since the 1965 album I Put a Spell on You, that artist has been Nina Simone. But as a programming choice, the song acted as an exhilarating salvo, brazenly self-conscious. It was a nod to the joy that follows a change in direction, in this case a striking shift in musical style. If any of this was lost on the Austin crowd, Kelis made her point clear by later adding snippets of “Feeling Good” to the material from Food, her sixth and finest LP.

Fans of Kelis’ previous idiosyncratic forays may be surprised to find little contemporary R&B on Food. Those partial to the futuristic electro-pop of 2010’s Flesh Tone, in particular, may even be disappointed. Her new album is, instead, a feast of sweaty funk grooves and impeccable soul melodies. With the help of producer Dave Sitek (of TV on the Radio), familiar sounds are frequently renewed and made dazzling. This classicist revamp is hardly a risky move in 2014. Food arrives on the heels of Daft Punk’s triumphant Grammy coup, which amounted to a victory lap for nostalgia on the pop charts. But Kelis’ ambitions are far less grandiose, placing the album somewhere in between recent works by Sharon Jones (on the formalist end) and Janelle Monáe (at the weirder extreme).

Review: Kelis, <i>Food</i>

Its misleading title notwithstanding, Food isn’t a gastronomic concept record. (Kelis rarely references edibles in her lyrics.) And despite some seemingly ridiculous names – such as “Jerk Ribs,” “Biscuits n’ Gravy,” “Friday Fish Fry,” and “Breakfast” – these songs don’t aim for laughs. In other words, we can brush aside comparisons to Cibo Matto’s Viva! La Woman. Kelis happens to be both a Le Cordon Bleu trained saucier and the host of a Cooking Channel show. She understands a meal provides more than sustenance for the body. It can be sensual and soulful, a portal to a specific time and place, a stimulant for the subconscious.

I’m reminded of a scene from Pixar’s culinary masterpiece Ratatouille, which fully dramatizes the power of taste-sensation. Late in the movie, a bite of the titular dish returns a miserable restaurant critic to his youth. He is instantly transported through time to the comfort of his mother’s kitchen. A forkful of expertly prepared vegetables changes him – taste humanizes and, ultimately, redeems him. When Kelis sings of jerk ribs, her subject isn’t Caribbean cuisine: she is recalling the wisdom handed down by her jazz-musician father (“He said to look for melody in everything”). Biscuits with gravy are dashed childhood ambitions (“I’m standing in the middle of some other person’s life”). Fried fish become a representation of the singer’s libido (“I need ice-cold water!”). The prospect of a meal is a prize waved in front of a lover, if she hasn’t yet kicked him from her bed (“Maybe we’ll make it to breakfast”).

Food is consistently satisfying and often fabulous. Its lesser ingredients (“Cobbler,” “Floyd,” and “Dreamer”) may distract, but only mildly, from what is some of the best work of Kelis’ career. The album abounds with engrossing hooks and vivid instrumental arrangements. Case in point: the Technicolor brio of “Jerk Ribs” and “Breakfast,” Food’s opening duo. “Rumble” lopes atop a lithe piano lick and then dances alongside a fat chorus. A couple of mid-tempo ballads (“Runnin’” and “Bless the Telephone”) and a superb torch song (“Biscuits n’ Gravy”) sneak some very real emotional heft into the routinely upbeat Food. “Friday Fish Fry,” a euphoric rave-up that features a call-and-response breakdown, surges with carnal electricity. For my money, it’s Kelis’ sexiest and most indelible song since “Bossy.”

Though she’s no stranger to the Billboard charts, Kelis exists in fame’s outer reaches. And aside from her universally beloved single “Milkshake,” she has yet to receive a wholehearted embrace from critics. It took sixteen years for her, an artist with a solid best-of compilation already under her belt, to reach firm creative footing. Newfound commercial success may or may not follow. Either way, Kelis’ late arrival deserves celebration – and her Food, relish. B+

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Album Stream: Kelis – Food

Kelis’s brass-heavy performance at NPR’s showcase was one of the best gigs we caught at this year’s SXSW, and it rocketed her new record Food all the way up our list of most anticipated records of 2014, so we’re psyched that it’s now streaming a week in advance of its physical release date via, of course, NPR. You’ve heard “Jerk Ribs” and “Rumble;” now take a listen to the jams that wowed us live, like “Breakfast” and “Friday Fish Fry,” and get in tune with Kelis’s singular vocals presiding over the electrifying thirteen-piece band brought to the table by producer Dave Sitek. You can – and should – grab a physical copy at a record store starting April 22.

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Stream Kelis’ new album ‘Food’ for Ninja Tune


Finally, after announcing the release of her album last December and sharing ‘Rumble‘ (which just got remixed by Breach FYI) in February, we’re now able to stream Kelis’ entire ‘Food’ in full before its release on Ninja Tune April 22.

Entirely produced by Dave Sitek (founder of TV On The Radio and producer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and Foals amongst others), her new album is a homecoming for Kelis: a soul record that’s as raw and alternative as it is classic. ‘Food’ is a startling combination of Kelis’ most frank and vulnerable vocals to date, and Sitek’s inimitable sonic imprint. Littered with transcendent, Spector-esque lift, warm bottom ends and vast depth, the music is the perfect backdrop for Kelis’ unique voice. The latter has only improved with time and experience, and the album candidly explores pain, happiness and everything in between.

The whole thing is streaming in full via NPR - head there now!

01. Jerk Ribs (04:12)
02. Breakfast (04:20)
03. Forever Be (03:32)
04. Floyd (04:59)
05. Runner (04:17)
06. Hooch (03:29)
07. Cobbler (03:19)
08. Bless The Telephone (02:31)
09. Friday Fish Fry (04:41)
10. Change (03:42)
11. Rumble (03:13)
12. Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy (04:23)
13. Dreamer (03:27)

Our 10 Most Anticipated Albums of April 2014

An indie supergroup, a Britpop superstar, a gap-toothed slacker, 90s alt-rock veterans and a Le Cordon Bleu-trained saucier are among the artists releasing albums we’re excited about in April.

Our 10 Most Anticipated Albums of April 2014
10 SZA, Z [April 8]

Our 10 Most Anticipated Albums of April 2014
09 Kelis, Food [April 29]

Our 10 Most Anticipated Albums of April 2014
08 EELS, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett [April 22]

Our 10 Most Anticipated Albums of April 2014
07 EMA, The Future’s Void [April 8]

Our 10 Most Anticipated Albums of April 2014
06 Cloud Nothings, Here and Nowhere Else [April 1]

Our 10 Most Anticipated Albums of April 2014 Our 10 Most Anticipated Albums of April 2014

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Video: Kelis – “Rumble”

After blowing our fucking minds with a twelve-piece band, Nina Simone cover, and trombone solo-packed version of “Milkshake” at SXSW, Kelis is gearing up to release her new, Dave Sitek-produced record Food soon. To get you psyched up, she’s dropped the video for “Rumble,” which features her lounging on a Victorian parlor chair in the middle of a lake as various dudes flyfish, canoe, and wail on trumpets behind her. Check it out - Food is out April 22.


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