- It was hard not to be excited upon hearing that Kelis would release Food, her first album in four years, on a label like Ninja Tune. Both are prone to throwing fantastic curveballs. Kelis might have made a name for herself with chart-smashing R&B on majors like Virgin, but her hits were always backed by pretty strange beats, and they've proven to have a much longer shelf-life than most. Remember "Millionaire"? That shit was a jam. Even David Guetta producing on her most recent album, 2010's Flesh Tone, couldn't burst the bubble.
Given all this, Food is, at first pass, a mild disappointment. Many people were probably hoping it would sound like something that actually belongs on Ninja Tune. Instead, it's a collection of soulful rhythm and blues, ably produced by Dave Zitek of TV On The Radio. Judged on these grounds, it does have it's strong moments. If you heard "Jerk Ribs," a single off the album that first surfaced about a year ago, you'll know what to expect: massive horn riffs, rolling basslines, some epic strings and Kelis, who is as powerful a vocalist as she's ever been. Lead single "Rumble" is another highlight. Driven mostly by piano chords, with a huge brass break for the chorus, it's ostensibly a feel-good anthem, but the lyrics point towards a torturous relationship with an ex. "Hooch" is maybe the funkiest track here, with a smoky staccato rhythm guitar that goes perfectly with Kelis's husky voice.
But while this all might be new for Kelis, it's nothing we haven't heard before. Food is a decent R&B album built on live instrumentation, something that's been done and done and done again. You would think that with Zitek at the controls some risks would be taken, but there's nothing challenging here. Even within itself, it's pretty samey, and the tracks that do sound different are actually the blandest, like the winsome folk noodling of "Bless The Telephone." Food might sound pretty, but it's weaker than the sum of its parts.
01. Jerk Ribs
03. Forever Be
08. Bless The Telephone
09. Fish Fry
12. Biscuits 'N' Gravy