Review: Kelis – Food

★★★★☆

Four Stars

Deliciously concocted like a soul buffet from space, Kelis’ otherworldly R&B drawl protrudes over retro beats producing something that simultaneously ticks the ultimate chill-out/party starter boxes, a great feat indeed. “This is the real thing”, she an- nounces on opening track Breakfast – rebuking those who know her for “bringing all the boys to the yard” with her tasty Milkshake in 2003. She went on to train as a saucier at Le Cordon Bleu academy in 2008, apparently as the result of disputes with her label, and she’s now hit them back with Jerk Ribs, Friday Fish Fry and Biscuits n’ Gravy on this latest offering – an odd culinary combo.

Much more refined than her previous pop-y hits, her husky purr constantly croons over a warm backbeat and vintage riffs that never seem forcibly contrived but evolve naturally out of her voice. The whole album is teeming with warm brass and chunky riffs, with heap- ing hunks of vintage soul and salty slabs of funk. Jerk Ribs begins with a mouth-watering bass riff which descends into the depths of your stomach where it’s supported by a swung shuffle that simply suggests that ‘everything’s fine, you’ll be alright’. The cynics should be quick to jump on Kelis’ eternal optimism but this is counteracted by a voice of experience, and disguised amongst the otherworldly char- acter of the groove.

The influence of the Neptunes, with whom she collaborated on Tasty, is still felt in the rhythm tracks – the cowbell on Jerk Ribs could’ve come straight from Blurred Lines, but it all still seems entirely original. A Space Odyssey, an odd sounding mix but one that nevertheless blends perfectly with Kelis’ voice which is often pushed back in the mix to become instrumental and to reinforce the fact that Food is almost biographical – the story of Kelis, and not what some random big shot producer has told her to do.

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The singer’s comeback could have so easily descended into a musical blancmange, over-produced, filled with poptastic hits but ultimately a bit beige. Luckily, the 34 year-old has emerged unscathed and, in the process, offered something with a slightly longer shelf life.