Kelis KelisFlesh Tone
INTERSCOPEAfter seeing and listening to “ Acapella,” I thought back and tried to remember at what stage of my life Kelis appeared. The thing is that I always thought that I knew her, thanks to “ Milkshake,” like half of all the other mortals. Nevertheless, I remembered a song by Timo Maas that I used to love back when I was a teenager wearing high heels to high school. Kelis sang “ Help Me,” which was a hymn on the most select house dance floors (the ones where there still wasn’t parking lot cannon fodder with Ralph Lauren polos, raised collars, and gold chains). Then came that money-making machine, mash-ups, remixes, versions, and other crossbreeds called “ Milkshake,” which still haven’t left my life (not long ago at all, the twentieth revision of the song reached my hard drive). The thing is that I listened to “ Acapella,” and it wasn’t strange for me to find Kelis making music for the dance floor. On the contrary, I found that it “suited” her, within that extravagance that surrounds her. I mean, look at her: her nose is pierced, she has a jarrai raverhairstyle (you know—partially shaved head with bangs, dreadlocks, or other outcroppings), false eyelashes made of plastic, and she dresses up like an avatar for parties… Hell, the last animal I’d put in a golden Moroccan tent is a Siberian husky. Is the strangest thing really that David Guetta produced her new work?
And here comes the phrase that will mark my life, the one that will stick in my mind like burning needles every time I make fun of Wally López’spublic: I love “ Acapella.” I’m sorry, I know that Dave Pearce will chart her up the wazoo, but I don’t care. I hear her and I feel like I’m ten times better looking; I sing the chorus, and I grow, I become powerful, and I only feel like going to a Café Olé –type party to hunt studs with an overdose of Winstrol and their eyebrows waxed more than mine. Because the house diva stage allows the New York artist to shine more as a vocalist than she does in the role of “ The Neptunes girl.” Maternity, divorce, the hassles with P.E.T.A., a divine inspiration … the thing is that Kelis has seen the light: without the Pharrell-Chad Hugo tandem on her side, and after the resounding failure of “Kelis Was Here,” the best that the she could do was try her luck changing tack, in this case, taking to the dance floor.
The forty minutes (a bit short) of “Flesh Tone” are essentially dance music for the masses, house filled out with progressive notes to burn on dance music radio stations and at huge parties on Ibiza. Nothing that Guetta hasn’t been doing for eons, with the only difference that Kelis’ voice appears in all of the cuts. Perhaps it is for this reason that the most lucid vocal moments are where the album’s quality is concentrated. “ Emancipate” will triumph as a single for its negro warbling, its pounding, easy chorus, voices that lend themselves to cheering and getting your hands up in the air, and a line of synthesisers that is easy to memorise. The classic dance music song put out every summer since time immemorial, and which continues to be a hit, whether you like it or not. “ 4th Of July” goes into the same bag: bad-neighbourhood bass drums, little pianos, crescendos, and sensual, evocative vocals. The first and last songs on the album work the best. The moments with fewer bpms have some quality details, some allusions to things that aren’t as old-hat as the mass dance formula. “ Intro” could have passed as a song put out by Institubes—it reminds me of the elegant, decadent disco made in New York, à la The Polyamorous Affair or The Golden Filter, with obvious differences, but still. “ Song For The Baby” adds some original instrumentation like trumpets, but its effectiveness lies in being the perfect hybrid of fresh roof-top house and a classic pop song.
With a cover like this (I’m sure that there will be a very hard-fought battle for the title of “worst cover art of 2010”), a new look, and song titles like “ 22nd Century,” one might think that Kelis has done an innovative album. It’s not true—it might be innovative for her, Harlem isn’t Cornellà, and this is the first time that the club community is her potential audience. But neither Guetta nor the other producers ( Will.i.am, Benny Benassi, Boys Noize) have really knocked themselves out here. She herself has made an effort, which you can sense throughout the album, with more mature lyrics, and vocal melodies where she gives her all. And we appreciate that. This album is enjoyable if—and only if—this type of product does it for you. You know that I myself, deep down, am a dancing queen.