Review #391: Kaleidoscope, Kelis

Karla Clifton
3 min readMay 24, 2023

#391: Kaleidoscope, Kelis

I didn’t recognize Kelis until I realized that she had arguably the biggest sleeper hit of 2003, “Milkshake.” You know, My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard! A cultural icon? I think so.

But according to Kelis, she didn’t earn a penny from the sales of her first two albums. Which includes this one, her debut. She worked with the Neptunes — aka songwriting duo Chad Hugo and Pharrell — who produced the whole album, plus contributed some vocals. And apparently, the two of them earned most of her money. In fact, when Beyonce sampled “Milkshake” on Renaissance, she was angry, because she didn’t earn any money from it, while Pharrell did. To her credit, B quietly removed the sample after the backlash. You can call her bitter, say that she signed away the rights of her own free will, but she was nineteen when she signed her first contract. I don’t blame her one bit.

It’s such a shame that she didn’t get her dues, because this record is a treasure. (And not just the gorgeous album cover.) It spawned three singles — “Good Stuff,” which is the most danceable thing I’ve heard in a while; “Caught Out There,” which includes a very punk rock wail of I hate you so much right now; and “Get Along With You,” which didn’t perform as well, probably because it’s a ballad. It has a chaotic energy far ahead of its time, too — “Intro” is a lullaby, and “Game Show” is a puppet show.

This album is nearly an hour long, pretty lengthy for a pop record. It’s long enough to display Kelis’ impressive range — she’s got dance bangers (“Mafia”), love songs (“I Want Your Love,” “No Turning Back”), and children-are-the-future tunes (“Ghetto Children”). My favorites were the ones where she channeled her inner psychedelic — “Suspended” and “Mars” both have enough beeps and laser gun sounds to make Radiohead jealous. “Roller Rink” is arguably the catchiest song, and it’s about aliens! Have you ever thought there might be something out there? Do you think you’d even know one if you saw one?

Part of me thinks the album is two songs too long — “In The Morning” and “Wouldn’t You Agree” are great vocal showcases, but didn’t raise my heart rate or anything. Still, they’d probably be standout tracks on any other R&B record.

Kelis may have gotten screwed, but don’t you worry, because she made it. After leaving her abusive husband Nas, she married photographer Mike Mora and moved to a remote farm outside Los Angeles. (Unfortunately, Mora died of stomach cancer in 2022.) Also, she became a classically trained chef and saucier! She even shared a milkshake recipe in 2017. She can teach us, but she’ll have to charge. She deserves to charge.

Final Note: I don’t know much about Ice Spice, but her look is hardcore channeling Kelis, and honestly good for her.

Review #390: Surfer Rosa, Pixies

Review #392: Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner, Ike & Tina Turner

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