"Are you hungry? My mum made food..."
And so begins 'Food', the latest album from Kelis and her tastiest offering since, well, 'Tasty'. Since training to become a chef at Le Cordon Bleu and developing her own range of sauces ("Feast"), food has become an intrinsic part of the singer's aesthetic. That's immediately apparent from the track titles here: Breakfast, Jerk Ribs, Friday Fish Fry, Biscuits N' Gravy.
'Food' is, incidentally enough, a veritable musical feast. Kelis has consistently changed her style with each album, from the angsty hip-hop of her early days, to the futuristic R&B of 'Tasty' and the electro dance of 'Flesh Tone'. Yet whilst her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, it's her jerk ribs that keeps them satisfied. With this album, produced by Dave Sitek, Kelis is serving up some soul food. Taking inspiration from soul, funk, gospel and Afrobeat, this is proper homestyle cooking just like mama makes, the sort of food that keeps you filled up for hours.
It's not all retro sounds though - this is a Kelis album after all. The sound might consist of funky basslines and rhythmic percussion served up with lashings of brass, but this is ultimately a modern album that gives humble ingredients a new twist with some light touches of electronics. The lyrics, too, are contemporary and flavoursome. "Maybe we'll make it to breakfast", she purrs with a wink on opener Breakfast (perhaps a nod to Prince's Breakfast Can Wait), whilst on the sensual Floyd she claims "I got some space, I want that man to fill it". You'd never find such spicy innuendo in the Motown tracks of old.
There's just enough layers of flavour to keep you salivating throughout this musical meal, its appeal owing to Sitek's warm production and Kelis' authentically husky tones. The soulful root is definitely a more natural fit for her talents than the slightly awkward EDM of 'Flesh Tone', 'Food' instead offering some rich tracks for the singer to really get her teeth stuck into. Cobbler for instance sees her letting loose with some bongo-fuelled carnival dance, whilst Biscuits N' Gravy features a particularly emotive vocal.
Even the best meals have the odd course that doesn't quite tickle the tastebuds and 'Food' is no different - acoustic palate-cleanser Bless The Telephone is an abrupt change of pace. For the most part, though, this is a seductive, sunshine-laden and carefree record serving fun times and musical nutrition for your ears. And with a follow-up apparently on the way, there's definitely room for a second helping.
So yes, I am hungry and your mum's food smells delicious. I'll take the biggest portion you've got.
* Jerk Ribs
* Biscuits N' Gravy
Listen: 'Food' is released on April 21st.