Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Demise of Kelis

I used to listen to a lot of RnB when I was growing up in the 90's (I still do). The male side of the genre was always predictable. Man finds woman attractive. Man then goes on to sing about how he's going to give said woman the best pleasure she's ever had. Hmm.

But when it came to the female RnB singers I found there was a much more varied approach. You had the female groups/acts that would sing about heartbreak and the woes of being cheated on and then you had the women who were making empowered music that expressed their sexuality as well as making it clear that they weren't to be fucked around. Salt-n-Pepa and TLC were a good example of this.

Not suprisingly, the singers/rappers of this time were making much more emotional, real music that wasn't about fantasy or an exertion of power.

But when female artists DID start to push the boundaries as a backlash to the insulting anti-women lyrics that were being churned out - suddenly, there was a problem. Men started to feel threatened. You only have to look at Sporty Thieves 'No Pigeons' to see how one song can provoke the need for some men to assert their masculinity.

However, as an angst ridden teenager I wanted more. I wanted the emotion of Toni Braxton and En Vogue mixed with the tell-it-like-it-is attitude of TLC and Salt-n-Pepa. So, when Kelis debuted with her first single 'Caught Out There' it completely gave way to a whole new level of female empowerment.

With her constantly changing rainbow coloured hair and distinct Neptunes produced style, Kelis was someone to look up to. She was sexy but not over-sexed and, in RnB terms, she was incredibly alternative looking compared to the weavetastic, choreographed hunnies that were now starting to become the popular choice for the 00's.

But, in a male dominated industry, a song implying that you would be severely harmed if you were to ever be unfaithful was never going to be a lasting success. It was received much better in the UK than it was in America but there were many occasions in which I heard Kelis described as 'mental' or a 'bunny boiler' by male radio presenters.

As an album 'Kaleidescope' was brilliant. It was such a refreshing approach towards a genre that was now becoming more and more commercial. But unfortunately for Kelis, her look and her sound was too alternative for the RnB world and too RnB for the alternative world. So although she received respect from the critics she didn't received the success that should have come with it.

Her next album 'Wanderland' followed a similar sound and approach. Although critically acclaimed it never got the interest and promotion that it deserved. To many people she was just the crazy girl who wanted to kill her boyfriend.

So after a short hiatus, it was decided that Kelis was missing something. She needed that mass appeal without losing her destinct sound. What's the one thing that can sell anything? Oh yes. Sex.

On the front cover of her third album 'Tasty'. We see a brunette Kelis perching on top of a tall glass of ice cream. With a cherry on top. The first single, Milkshake was her most successful to date. A catchy floor-filler that was writhing in boob-bouncing, lollipop-sucking sexual innuendo.

What followed in the years to come was a Kelis who had been told that the only way she'd get anywhere was by singing about how sexy she was and all the things she was going to do to her new husband, Nas, in public.

This prostitution of someone who I really respected was sad to see. Because not only did it effect her music ('Kelis Was Here' was CRAP) but it hardly made any difference to her record sales. Kelis could never quite get 'there'.

Now, after a divorce and having a child, Kelis has been reinvented once again. This time as an amazonian trance diva.

'Flesh Tone' is a piano trance pop ballad disaster. With songs produced by big dance names like David Guetta, Boys Noize and Benny Benassi each song as a 'seague' between it so it flows like some sort of dance mix album.

Kelis has given up on selling sex, she's now going where the money lies - cheesetastic trance for the masses. We can only wait and see if this is finally what gets her the success she deserves, be it in disappointing circumstances.

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