Kelis first dazzled our ears (and our eyes) with her work on Noreaga’s songs produced by The Neptunes. She sung the hook on Noreaga’s “Hysteria (Cocaine Business)”. Eventually, she began to sing on many songs produced by The Neptunes. Even though her voice and style were unique, it was her loud and angry anthem for women who had enough called “Caught Out There” that got everyone’s attention. From there, Kelis has been doing collaborations and singing hooks for hip-hop’s finest. She worked with everyone from Busta Rhymes, Nas, Noreaga, and more. Her addictive hook on “What It Is” by Busta Rhymes shot her star even higher. Eventually, people knew that when you heard Kelis, there was sexuality, a funky style, and a thick Neptunes beat. After her debut “Kaleidoscope” LP, she released another LP that was never released in the US. After many more collaborations, Arista and Star Track released “Tasty”, the new album by Kelis. Looking like Donna Summer on the cover, “Tasty”, is a fun, sexy, and sometimes silly affair that drips with sexuality, confidence, and sweetness. Unlike her debut LP, Neptunes only produces approximately half of the album. While “Tasty” is entertaining, catchy, and fun, it walks the borderline between serious emotional singing and easily dismissed pop.
The best songs on “Tasty” are the ones where Kelis either does something that separates herself from the typical R&B singer or where she puts all of her heart and mind into the track. Produced by Neptunes, “Trick Me” is the opening track with an addictive and bouncy beat. “You might trick me once / But I won’t let you trick me twice”, Kelis sings on the hook. Her confidence is complemented by the incredibly strong beat, which fuels the track. “Sugar Honey Iced Tea” (produced by The Neptunes) is probably the catchiest and tightest track on the album. The hook and the beat are hypnotic. The listener will not be able to get this song out of the mind. “In Public” featuring Nas (produced by Rockwilder) is homage to making love in public places. Nas has a raunchy yet tight verse to his girlfriend. “…The p*ssy or the mouth? / That is the question / like Shakespeare /but my erection is the case here …” The erotic sensuality of “In Public” beats George Michael’s “Outside” as an anthem for making love outdoors. “In Pubic” is one of the best tracks on the album. “Millionaire” was produced and features Andre 3000 from Outkast. The most original sounding and interesting track on the LP, “Millionaire” is a beautiful cacophony of electronic noises and beats. Andre and Kelis sing “…Momma, I’m a millionaire..” The song becomes an intellectual exercise on the superficiality of money along with the yearning for success. Kelis and Andre work perfect together. This is much more catchier than “Dracula’s Wedding” from Andre’s “The Love Below”. Another wonderful track is “Flashback” (produced by The Neptunes) where the thick, funky, bouncy beat forces the body to shake. “You make my body go Yeah, yeah!”, sings Kelis. While the song is not deep on the lyrical level, the passion and emotion is there. It is a tight up-beat R&B pop song. The hit single “Milkshake” is either a track you love or hate. The Neptunes truly gave Kelis a dirty sounding track and her vocals and breast-shaking lyrics add to the tawdry atmosphere. Still, it works very well and becomes addictive. Raphael Saddiq produces two very well executed songs that are much more mellow than the loud funk of a Neptunes track. “Glow” and “Attention” give the album a balance both in tempo and emotion. “Glow” is a wonderful track that is reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s 70’s R&B. Raphael Saddiq truly allows Kelis to shine.
Unfortunately, some of the songs are just typical pop tracks that could be dismissed. “Protect My Heart” (produced by Neptunes) has a thick, rolling beat but the melody and the production sound like it could be music for a teen pop group. (Kelis is opening for Britney Spears on tour… ugh!). “Rolling Through The Hood” and the final track “Marathon” both share this somewhat typical mainstream sound. While “Rolling Through The Hood” does have a mellow funk to it, it quickly turns into a filler track. “Marathon” (produced by Raphael Saddiq) has more of the old school hard hitting boom-bap snare beats. While it is the better of the two, “Marathon” does not grab the listener.
There are a couple of songs that are just plain bad. “Keep It Down” (produced by Dallas Austin) is something very different since it has thick rock drums and rock guitar sounds. (Kelis even gives a shout out to the Beastie Boys.) The song simply does not fit and the fans will usually always hit the skip button. “Stick Up” (produced by Dame Grease) is a clever idea that could have been better. Kelis uses her love like a strong-arm tactic. “Stick Up” ends up another filler track.
Kelis is an extremely talented and unique personality. Her voice and energy is both sexy and dirty while being childish and adult-like. She has the sexy voice of Donna Summer, the attitude of Madonna, the childish quality of Britney Spears, with the pain of Mary J. Blidge. The Neptunes make this album shine along with Andre 3000’s one contribution. Although Raphael Saddiq does do a decent job, Kelis shines the brightest on beats by Neptunes. Since The Neptunes are walking the borderline between mainstream commercial teen pop music and hip-hop, Kelis is walking that same line. Unfortunately, it is very possible that Kelis may be swept under the rug with the other pop stars. Kelis deserves more than that. There is hip-hop culture in every single thing she does. She is not trying to be something she’s not. “Tasty” is an entertaining and fun album. There is no political intensity or incredible emotional depth. Like the album suggests, “Tasty” is like a feast of sweet things. Unfortunately, like sweet things are, it may not be 100% good for you. “Tasty” as an album is not very nutritious but most of it does taste very good.