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September 08, 2006 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-08

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Friday, September 8, 2006 - The Michigan Daily - 11
Kelis close but not quite here

By Kimberly Chou
Associate Arts Editor
MUSIC REVIEW kknd
As Kelis knows, sometimes you just
have to swallow.
Since her danger-
ously catchy "Milk- Kelis
shake," pop life for Kelis Was Here
the singer - at least
the aspects docu- LaFaco
mented in the media
- has been decidedly frothy. She got
married to Nas in a lavish Poison Ivy-
themed wedding, appeared at various
awards shows wearing outfits each more
over the top than the last and pretty much
lost any chance to regain the respect she
earned (or at least the credibility critics
hoped she brought to the table) with the
raging "Caught Out There" on 1999's
Kaleidoscope.
Kelis won't be getting props in the same
vein as the praise for "Caught Out There"
- a great deal of it for being "the first
girl to scream on a track," as Kelis puts it
- but taking on the role of extravagant,
overtly sexual hip-hop pop star isn't nec-
essarily a concession. With the impres-
sion she projects on Kelis Was Here, Kelis
isn't just the louche party girl making
suggestive gestures from across the club.
To be sure, she is exactly that on a few
tracks - after all someone has to make

up for Lil' Kim when the Queen Bee's in
the pen. But this fourth solo effort shows
Kelis as the alpha female in the bedroom
as well as the studio. Kelis may have a
certain image but she's obviously the cal-
culating mind behind it.
Kelis Was Here starts in promising
fashion. On the introduction, Kelis spins
a velvety boast with style closer to 1930s
lounge than anything else. "One day your
children's babies' babies' babies' / Will
know that Kelis was here," she announc-
es over slow-foot jazz drums, capping
the sketch with a coda built by a lupine
whistle.
Lead-off single "Bossy," ubiquitous
at summer house parties, is Kelis at her
"Bitch, please" acme. She flaunts her
sex appeal and fashion sense over a sat-
isfyingly sparse beat and one of those
faux-Middle Eastern sounds-like-a-sitar-
but-it's-just-guitar line, a club track favor-
ite of the past two years.
But the album's greatest weakness is its
length. Buyers looking for shiny, happy
party music like on Tasty will struggle
as Kelis Was Here begins to drag after a
dozen tracks, with a bonus cut amount-
ing to trash about trash. The second half
of the album shows a more experimental
Kelis, which is welcome move although
hit or miss. The sangria-tinged "Have A
Nice Day" ends with a refreshing clas-
sical guitar feature, despite vocals that
begin staid and uninspired.

"Living Proof" is a simple mid-tempo
number that's feather-light and surpris-
ingly affecting. Kelis pulls off lyrics like
"If you don't believe / I'm telling you the
truth / Open up your heart / And love
will come to you," genuinely convincing
you that Nas must make for some sweet,
sweet loving to inspire such a dulcet
throwback ballad.
And then Kelis goes and milks her fuck-
me-in-the-restaurant-bathroom persona
like the cows aren't ever coming home.
Songs like "What's That Right There"
makes you wonder if she wears stiletto
heels and Agent Provacateur all the time.
It makes you question her sincerity on
supposed heart-renders like "Goodbyes."
But if you want Kelis to stick to her type,
she does it well here: a tinny-two step
rhythm and tumbling bass drum beats
segue into something vaguely Chic "Le
Freak"-ish as she throws around lines like
"Your heart's gonna stop / When I drop
... down," making sure to emphasize the
last word, rolling it around in her mouth.
"Blindfold Me" is no different in
attitude. Kelis struts in on a galloping
buzz-bell rhythm and alternates between
breathing heavily and speaking her piece
on her sexcapades. However, the hook on
"Blindfold Me" reveals her weak sing-
ing voice. She's competent to sing the
occasional guest hook (see "Got Your
Money"), but when she tries for'that trem-
bly Toni Braxton alto, it's uncomfortably

"Actually that one song is about sucking cock, OK?"

forced and broken.
Kelis is capable of stretching her limit-
ed talent further and she obviously knows
it. On "Circus" she muses on her position
in the superficial music industry: "They
told me this how they get rich y'all / Make
a hit song, same lame lyrics, same bass,
same kickdrum." But she scores when she
sticks to this recipe and she always jumps
back to it. Mostly just for show, Kelis

plays the lion tamer, tightrope walker and
fire-eater she sings about on the track.
She sets up this sex-kitten image and
sticks with it for the majority of her work,
providing occasional glimpses of prom-
ising experimentation. Strange, but after
17 tracks of Kelis asserting herself as top
dog, hearing "Circus" makes you rethink
whether it's a good thing that she's so
pleased with herself.

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