Kelis is in very fine form on her sixth album 'Food'. Her colaboration with producer and co-writer Dave Sitek on new label Ninja Tunes has resulted, at least to my hairy ears, in the most coherent and consistent recording of her career so-far. The sound is richer; the arrangements deft and her husky soulful voice has never sounded more at home. There are thirteen numbers in the set and not a bad egg in the nest.
Mr Sitek's deployment of horns adds a satisfying warmth and density and can be heard at their best on tracks such as the gospel-tinged opener 'Breakfeast'; the funkily loping 'Jerk Ribs' and the slinky R & B of 'Hooch' which is further augmented with some nice jangly guitar and breathy backing vocals. Ms Rogers' delightful take on Labi Siffre's 1971 composition 'Bless The Telephone' is a more stripped-down affair which, together with the captivating 'Floyd', contributes welcome dynamic variation to the mix but for my money the raucous bluesy stomp of 'Rumble' delivers what is probably the project's most uplifting moment.
One of the strongest and most engaging releases this year. A tasty treat destined for my 2014 Summer soundtrack.
Music and food seem to go hand-in-hand for Kelis through various projects. Following the release of "Tasty" (2003) and its massive hit single "Milkshake", Kelis graduated as a saucier, hosted her own cookery show, previewed a sauce line as well as a clothing line, and has been working on a recipe book for some time. Food as a concept takes on so many meanings, but as a theme it is better described through "consumption". Kelis, rather than be political or existential, focuses on how humans consume the world around them through memories, experiences and lifestyles. This new album was reportedly written with influences from the records her parents played while growing up. Obviously, she understands that a meal provides more than sustenance for the body, this is so much more than a gastronomic concept album. Here she is at her most homely and reflective. One could argue that "Food" is a cleverly disguised break-up record. Her divorce with rapper Nas provides lyric material which Kelis addresses with strength and maturity.
In contrast to previous album, the electro-dance "Flesh tone", "Food" is a jazzy-tingled, soul-fueled, R'n'B-flavoured record. Filled with funky grooves and bluesy melodies, it is built around blasts of brass and soundtrack-like orchestral moments. Big bouncey beats, deep throbbing bass, crunchy guitar riffs, pulsating hip-hop grooves, snappy drums, dramatic strings, bright horns, hints of gospel, elements of folk. Her husky, soulful voice demands full attention from the listener. Although Kelis has yet to receive the acclaim she deserves, with this 13-course delectable feast of deliciousness she gives another dynamic to her already multi-faceted portfolio. In a time when her former collaborator Pharell is enjoying global success with the brand they introduced on her first albums, Kelis is confident enough to dig into her genre. "I know I don't look it but I can cook", she croons, and based on this banquet, she really can. In the past, she took pride in her "Milkshake" that brought all the boys to the yard. She can now expect a whole lot of customers to relish her "Food".
On her sixth album “Food,” Kelis pleases our music-buds with some tasty tunes served on a R&B platter, the 13 dishes served with some Afro-beat, funk, gospel and Memphis soul flavors, with a sprinkling of jazzy horns and a dollop of electro-pop. Her husky, weathered voice is well-suited with this material. Kelis's four year old son Knight Jones opens the album with the lines: "Hey guys! Are you hungry? My mom made food!" Here’s what’s on the menu:
First dish served is “Breakfast,” a gospel-ish track filled with bass, horns and whistles. Next on the menu is “Jerk Ribs.” This funky track has a real ‘60s/70s soul-vibe, and as she sings “This is what it looks like” the horns provide the necessary big band feel. The soulful piano-ballad “Forever Be” with a sprinkling of synth, is the straightest pop-song on the album, another track infused with bass, horns and strings. This is followed by the slow jam of the seductive blues-ballad “Floyd” as she sings: “I want to be blown away, Blow me away.”
Kelis turns up the heat with the sultry, mid-tempo ballad “Runnin’.” Next song, and probably the funkiest track on this album, is the horn-filled funk anthem "Hooch," one that is perfectly suited to Kelis’s husky voice. This is followed by the up-tempo “Cobbler,” another funky, dance-floor ready track with a strong James Brown-vibe (great song, although I disliked the high notes near the end). There is also one cover on this album, an acoustic version of Labi Siffre’s 1971 song “Bless The Telephone,” a duet with Sal Masekela that has a folksy, almost Simon and Garfunkel-ish vibe.
She goes for sexy and sultry again with the funky “Fish Fry” as she begs “Give me what I want, Give me what I need,” pines for "That tall drink of water I notice in the corner" and sings: “I need ice cold water” (love the bar-room call-and-response “She needs ice cold water” part in this track). Next up is the powerful, funky Afro beat of “Change,” which starts slow but builds towards an emotional power-house vocal performance, followed by the soulful “Rumble” and the gospel-ish, piano-driven ballad “Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy.” The slow, string-laced ballad “Dreamer” closes the album.
Kelis reinvents herself time and again. Each new album is different from the preceding one, just like “Food,” which is a huge departure from 2010's electronic dance album "Flesh Tone." So if you’re looking for the same type of electro-pop, it might not be to your musical taste. But that said, this album is a very palatable dish, hence the five “Michelin” stars for the “Food” that gourmet chef Kelis has served. Gotten hungry? Order “Food!"