Kelis’ sixth studio album ‘Food’ packs some soulful punch but misses out on the wow factor
Kelis had always been at the forefront of the R&B crowd, she’d solidified herself as the go to for rhythmic soul, R&B and powerful vocals. However, on her fifth album, Flesh Tone, she brought a pop, dance style sound to the table which shocked many of her avid fans but brought her into the charts with collaborations with Calvin Harris and David Guetta. It verged on unforeseeable what Kelis would do on this sixth album; in 2011, before her dispute with her record label, it seemed clear that it would go down the same electro, dance route, but when she switched to British independent label Ninja Tune and announced she was using indie rock producer Dave Sitek- no one quite knew what to expect. It was shocking when single ‘Jerk Ribs’ came out because it was the polar opposite of what her dance hits; it was soulful and funky and showed no signs of falsified electro beats. This long awaited album carries on this feel gives Kelis fans just what they’ve been waiting for: lashings of R&B and soul.
The album is unique in itself, aptly named ‘food’, was recorded in just two months in Sitek’s kitchen and inspired by home-cooked soul food it’s definitely got the nostalgic feel Kelis is after with enough soul, funk and gospel undertones to feed the soul.
From the outset, ‘Breakfast’ opens with a light and cheery feel and quite literally welcomes us into the album, ‘Jerk Ribs’ follows and you’re hit with a wave of soulful saxophones and African drums that add to the pulsing R&B beats running throughout, as it crescendos to a climax you are left wanting more. Kelis doesn’t leave us hanging and dives into ‘Forever be’ which has a slightly softer sound but again builds in much a similar way to ‘Jerk Ribs’. At this point a song to blow you away seems necessary- but you don’t get it. Instead, ‘Floyd’ and ‘Running’ both equally soft and seductive R&B tunes with soul undertones that contrast the previous tracks but don’t quite bring something new to the table. The album picks up the pace on ‘Hooch’ with Kelis’ rhythmic vocals saying ‘I belong to you’ and Latin music inspired ‘Cobbler’ again builds the pace with a bump and shuffle beat and varied tones. However, much like before we are left wanting more and don’t quite get it. Instead next comes an acoustic track ‘bless the telephone’, followed by the upbeat feel good ‘Friday fish fry’ and all feels a bit chaotic.
At times the album seems to lag and miss great opportunities to build something brilliant. That’s not to say there aren’t some great songs. The final track of the album ‘Dreamer’ is a riveting ballad with haunting electro sounds but still a soulful edge, heart-tugging lyrics and pulsing drums, and it works- but sadly not every song is the same. At times the constant soulful, upbeat tone can tend to sound bland and that’s perhaps what makes this album just good but not great. At times songs come too close to forgettable due to the lack of differentiation between tracks, it’s the same: soulful rhythms with underlying bass and drums to modernise them and it all gets a bit typical.
Due to this ‘Food’ results as more of a safe and fulfilling bet than the exciting new material we were expecting from Kelis and Sitek. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy this soulful and funky new album, it’ll satisfy all your R&B and soul needs down to the T, but it’s sadly not a musical phenomenon.