Kelis Was Here

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"That milkshake song" ("Milkshake") brought Kelis to the mainstream for a couple months during 2003 and 2004. The singer's follow-up -- Kelis Was Here, her fourth album -- bears no retreads. Though lead single "Bossy" makes lyrical references to her number three hit and the moderate breakout "Caught Out There," the song is as distinct as anything she has done before, featuring another variation on her don't-give-a-damn assertiveness, this time over an ornamental and plinky production from Shondrae. The album, like the others before it, deals a number of stylistic curveballs, all of which are handled by the singer like lobs down the middle of the plate. What makes it less successful than 1999's Kaleidoscope and 2003's Tasty is that it's extremely choppy and excessively long, and it doesn't have the range of emotions to match the varied backdrops. There is too much and not enough Kelis; too much material is second rate, and the tougher sides of her character dominate the album -- there are too few equivalents to the softer likes of "Get Along with You," "Flash Back," and "Protect My Heart." Minus the intro, there are 17 songs, which are sequenced in a way that snags any sense of momentum. "Bossy" leads into the plodding and brainless "What's That Right There," an inert club track that relies far too much on an overused Funkadelic song and a tossed-off call-and-response nonsense initiated by producer "Blindfold Me"'s anthemic kink drops directly into a misty-eyed ballad, one of a few instances where Kelis' collaborators ape old Neptunes moves (such as the ones made on Kelis' first three albums), though Scott Storch deserves a commendation for his clone job on "Trilogy." While Kelis Was Here cannot be disregarded, it's more like a lot of songs thrown onto a disc at random than an album. It's more demanding of your deleting and resequencing skills than any other Kelis release. Beware the baffling three-minute jam that ends "Have a Nice Day" and stay for the untitled bonus track, actually titled "F*ck Them Bitches," which continues to prove that any Kelis song involving cursing and putdowns is a brilliant Kelis song.

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