released July 6th, 2010

from the album - Acapella

from all music

Harlem-bred vocalist Kelis left her parents' home at 16 and landed a deal with Virgin four years later. In mid-1999, Kelis was singing alongside rap troublemaker Ol' Dirty Bastard on his cut "Got Your Money," and her signature Technicolor-spiraled Afro sparked critics' interest. Kelis captured feminist desires on her debut, Kaleidoscope, released in December 1999. Two years later, she teamed up with the Neptunes once again for Wanderland. The sophomore effort was issued in Europe only (political reworkings within the U.S. wing of Virgin prevented a stateside release), which compelled Kelis to leave for Arista. Released in 2003, Tasty followed and yielded the Top Ten hit "Milkshake," another Neptunes production. After Kelis married Nas (a relationship that would last roughly four years), Kelis Was Here was released in 2006 through Jive and was led by the duly assertive "Bossy." The album spawned no other hits, and it would be her last studio work for the label. Jive subsequently packaged The Hits, a mix of singles and album cuts that also featured some of the singer's most popular collaborations ("Get Your Money," N.E.R.D.'s "Truth or Dare," Richard X's "Finest Dreams"). Signed to Interscope through the music group, Kelis released Fleshtone (2010), a dance-flavored set featuring productions from David Guetta, Benny Benassi, Boys Noize, Diplo, and Jean Baptiste.

album review

To say Kelis has been through some changes would be an understatement. Since the 2006 release Kelis Was Here, she moved from Jive to's Interscope-affiliated vanity imprint, divorced Nas, and gave birth to a boy. Between all that, in addition to a catalog of four R&B albums that deserved greater sales, she could be forgiven for making something like a mindless dance-pop album. While Flesh Tone is a headlong dive into sleek dance-pop — one that could have been forecast years prior, given her collaborations with Moby, Timo Maas, and Richard X, and let us never forget Diddy’s “Let’s Get Ill” — it is much more personal than any of her past releases. “Acapella,” one of two tracks made with David Guetta, seems merely redemptive (“It’s just me surviving alone,” “Before you, my whole life was acapella”) until considering that it comes from a woman whose marriage fell through just prior to motherhood. The song that creates the album’s second greatest rush is also about parenthood; “Song for the Baby” similarly strikes as a boilerplate dancefloor love song on the surface, but once its subject sinks in, “I love you more than you’ll ever know” disarms quicker than any line from “Get Along with You” or “Rolling Through the Hood.” The remaining tracks are based in romantic relationships, but not all of them are about moving ahead. The churning “Intro” is bleak, just about hopeless (“Your force so dark, now my life feels uninspired”), yet it is just as powerful as anything else on the album. Nine songs with seven unique sets of production credits whip by in 38 minutes. The setup works because the songs are conjoined and dynamically ordered, like each collaborator knew what was required to complement the other tracks without sacrificing any distinct sonic character. Whether or not Flesh Tone remains a stylistic outlier, the disc will always be a bright standout in Kelis' discography.

Track Listing

1 Intro Baptiste, Kelis 3:29
2 22nd Century Baptiste, Kelis, Meid ... 4:54
3 4th of July (Fireworks) Baptiste, Burns, Fischer ... 5:39
4 Home Baptiste, Kelis, Marsh 4:02
5 Acapella Baptiste, Guetta, Kelis ... 4:27
6 Scream Baptiste, De Garcez, Guetta ... 3:29
7 Emancipate Baptiste, Benassi, Benassi ... 4:25
8 Brave Baptiste, Fauntleroy, Kelis ... 3:31
9 Song for the Baby Baptiste, Boards, Kelis ... 3:41