Kelis has always been a little bit different. Since screaming “I hate you so much right now” on her debut single, she has made a career on being the edgy chick with the bitchy attitude. But there is more to her than that. The singer is a melting pot of influences with a gift for penning catchy hooks. With her fourth album, Kelis Was Here, Mrs. Nas continues to hone her sound with more sexually charged taunts and in-your-face verses. Even without the indelible stamp of the Neptunes, Kelis continues to explore various genres without fear. Kelis Was Here may be one of the year’s most adventurous mainstream releases.
The album’s vibe is rooted mostly in ’80s sounds, but its edge and forward-thinking approach make it stand out from most of the other retro stuff out there. Lead single “Bossy” is representative of the album, but even better is the ultra-hot “Blindfold Me,” which perfectly sums up Kelis’s edgy and sexy style. Sometimes rapping and sometimes singing, the sexy performer easily fits her raspy voice into every genre. Old-school hip-hop is referenced on “Weekend” and “Aww Shit.” Rock is experimented with on “Till the Wheels Fall Off,” and an ’80s synth-pop vibe is played with on “I Don’t Think So.” Kelis even flirts with straightforward pop and Latin. The album’s best tracks, such as the Scott Storch-produced “Trilogy,” a mid-tempo slice of intergalactic soul, and the speaker-rattling “Handful,” defy categorization. The producers, including Will.I.Am and Raphael Saadiq, create interesting backdrops for Kelis’s flirty vocals, so sonically the album never bores.
Kelis is one of the mainstream’s most exciting artists right now, and she continues to defy expectations with Kelis Was Here. She may have ended her partnership with the Neptunes, but she doesn’t seem to be holding onto the past.