Cast your mind back over the discography of Goldfrapp for a moment. They kicked off with an opening triple salvo of sexy, electronic-based albums (Felt Mountain, Black Cherry, Supernature) that were very forward-thinking and filled to the brim with floor-fillers. Then they completely switched tack, going very instrument-heavy, but still mingled in with some laid-back electro. It was quite the gear change, and while it wasn't bad, it certainly wasn't what we came to a Goldfrapp album looking for.
Now, look back over Kelis' discography. Her opening trio of albums - Kaleidoscope, Wanderland, Tasty - were all incredibly sexy, electronic-based albums, very forward-thinking, and filled to the brim with floor-fillers. Once she ditched Pharrell and The Neptunes, she hooked up hip-hop producers on Kelis Was Here, and David Guetta and the rest of the EDM crew for Flesh Tone, but while she took the scenic route, she has ended up in the same place as Goldfrapp.
Food still sounds very much Kelis, but not the Kelis we came here for. Entirely produced by TV On The Radio's guitarist Dave Sitek, this is a very heavy instrument album, going back to the roots of R'n'B that you might expect from Erykah Badu or India Arie, and while the chameleonic Kelis fits this into this sound like a glove, anyone expecting a single akin to 'Milkshake' or 'Acapella' is in for a shock.
Opening track and first single 'Jerk Ribs' will pretty much sets the tone for the whole album, and more specifically, whether it's the Kelis album for you or not. Horns a-blazing and the warm, engulfing vocal prowess of Miss Rodgers, it sets out the stall for what is to come. In fact, the album and first single title are not coincidence, since Kelis has been busy with a cooking show in the four years since her last album, and other song titles here include the likes of 'Breakfast', 'Cobbler', 'Friday Fish Fry' and 'Biscuits 'n' Gravy'.
There vaguely laid-back groove continues on into the album, with the songs remarkable from each other due to their differing influences. 'Change' almost sounds like Kelis is singing over the opening credits music to a Conan The Barbarian movie, 'Friday Fish Fry' sounds like it was composed in the middle of a hoe-down in the old wild west, and second single 'Rumble' is a break-up happening in a 1920's speak-easy.
If you're absolutely desperate for an ear-worm, the closest you're going to get to it here is 'Cobbler', built on a wall of claps and what sounds like kitchen utensils, but even then it's something you'll probably wiggle to on your chair, but won't but hitting the dancefloor for. Most of the album seems to be Kelis sexily singing about love, or lovingly singing about sex, and here on 'Cobbler', amid a background chorus of orgasmic oooh's and aaah's, she tells us “You've got this feeling like a holiday, here in your arms it's like a getaway.”
What isn't expected from a Kelis album is that some of the highlights are when she lowers the tempo, like 'Floyd' which sounds like it wasn't written specifically to accompany foreplay, or album closer 'Dreamer', which is an ode to all of the unique freaks and creative types out there.
As a whole album, it marks yet another new direction for the do-whatever-she-feels-like diva, and there's a good chance it may well end up being the best of her works to hear live, and while Kelis' sojourn into a more instrumental sound is more than welcome, especially since she embraces it so easily, you can't help but feel that you're already waiting for her next album. One that WILL have the next 'Milkshake' or 'Acapella'.
THREE POINT FIVE STARS