You all remember the song “Milkshake,” right? Of course you do. Just hearing its name should send memories of painfully awkward middle school dances and not-really-knowing-what-a-milkshake-was confusion flooding back to you. What you might not remember quite so vividly is the song’s artist, Kelis.
Since her first album in 1999, Kelis’ style has never stayed the same. She has continued to reinvent herself, even after the success of “Milkshake,” from her 2003 album “Tasty.” From hip-hop and R&B to electronic, house and soul, her music is always evolving. Her latest album, released on April 22 in the United States, and produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, is no exception.
In the years following “Milkshake,” Kelis has also embarked on a variety of other creative projects aside from her music, most notably cooking. Kelis is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, and is a certified saucier. She’s released her own line of sauces, and, apparently, is co-writing a cookbook, making quite the career change.
However, Kelis’ newest musical venture blends her two passions into a less-corny-than-it-sounds collection of smooth, somehow-nostalgic songs in an album aptly titled “Food.” The album features a full band and demonstrates a seriousness and a musical maturity not quite so evident in her previous albums. “Food” is quite a departure, conceptually and musically, from her last album “Flesh Tone,” an electronic, house dance album released in 2010 with notable singles “4th of July” and “Acapella.”
Honest, reflective lyrics in Kelis’ satisfyingly raspy vocals—lyrics more emotionally resonant than “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,” at least—pervade the new album. While the more poignant lyrics are the theme that ties the album together, each song casts doubt on what we think we know about Kelis’ musical style.
The album’s second single, “Rumble,” is reminiscent of The Black Keys, while “Change” sounds like the soul version of a Western film villain’s theme song. “Bless the Telephone,” on the other hand, presents a new side of Kelis, too, with gentle acoustic guitar and soft harmonies. Aside from the album’s singles “Jerk Ribs” and “Rumble,” downtempo “Runnin’” and horn-filled “Hooch” seem to be contenders for the album’s more popular tracks. In all, “Food” doesn’t quite leave as memorable a taste in my mouth as “Tasty” did back in the day (forgive the pun), but it is undoubtedly a great Sunday morning listen.
The darker, softer Kelis of 2014 is a far cry from the aggressive “Caught out There” girl of 1999, and it seems that with rumors of a 90’s inspired, trip-hop album in the works, we may just see yet another side of the girl who brought all the boys to the yard.
Contact Samantha Neuber at sneuber “at” stanford.edu.