When I think of Kelis the first thing comes to mind is her ‘Milkshake’, and how it brought all the boys to the yard. So when her sixth studio album, Food, was released I was expecting an album of catchy pop tracks; but this record is so much more. It’s a huge departure from Kelis’ previous works, having left most of the pop and dance elements of previous album Flesh Tone behind, instead opting for more soul, gospel and funk influences. The whole album is full of lush orchestration, with gorgeous soaring strings and tight brass arrangements complimenting the singer’s husky vocals.
The album opens with ‘Breakfast’, which starts with an unnamed child saying ‘Hi, guy. Are you hungry? I love my food’, when I heard this opener I was perplexed (mainly as it sounded very much like the opener to Macklemore’s ‘Thriftshop’), but as soon as the music comes in you realize this isn’t a novelty track. The huge gospel styled chorus with the anthemic lyrics (“This is the real thing, the real thing about us, welcome to the world”) chanted by Kelis and a choir of vocal layers all add to the strength and power of this opening track. The song builds and builds until you reach the final joyous chorus complete with brass counter melodies and choir backing, and from that moment onwards Food goes from strength to strength.
Lead single ‘Jerk Ribs’ takes influence from funk music, with intricate syncopated rhythms, a percussive drive that pushes the track forward and fanfare style riffs from the horn section. This was the track Kelis used to tease the record, and has been available for a free download from her website for almost a year now, showing how long in the making Food has been.
‘Floyd’ is a gritty soulful ballad, with dirty brass lines and tight vocal harmonies. Its honest lyrics are refreshing, with Kelis crooning “I want to be blown away” in the chilled chorus. It’s also worth noting the albums only cover, ‘Bless The Telephone’. This is the most relaxed song on the album, a cover of the 70s track by folk artist Labi Siffre, Kelis reimagines the track as a duet, with guest Sal Masekela. The cover doesn’t seem out of place as might be expected of it, the lack of production and simple instrumentation (just two vocal lines and an acoustic guitar) showcase the two singers voices, and offers a breather from the beautiful yet huge production of the album.
Food is a triumph. A brave departure from the usual for Kelis, but it’s arguably her strongest offering yet, showing quite how diverse she is an artist.