There’s no doubt that Kelis is a star, she’s got the looks, personality, charisma and style to make it big, but why didn’t she ever really blow up like a Mariah or Christina? This piece attempts to uncover some of the reasons why Kelis got lost in the shuffle and future steps that she can take to claim her spot at the top of the charts.
Kelis’ first album, Kaleidoscope came out in 1999. Her first single was “Caught out there” was released in the third quarter of 1999. The song is about a woman who is fed up with her cheating/lying boyfriend. The song starts off with Kelis describing what went wrong in their actual relationship. Later Kelis is in the tub flipping through pictures of her cheating boyfriend with a dominatrix in a compromising position. At the end Kelis was in a straight jacket and picketing with a group of angry women. Honestly this song was a huge hit overseas especially in Europe where it garnered top 5 status on the charts. If you remember 1999 obviously it was the turn of the century and people were becoming more open and expressive especially women, however some of the themes and content from this video were a bit much for some people. The next single was “good stuff” which was released in November, but really didn’t make an impact on the charts. The final single, released mid-february was “get along with you”. The single was the lowest-performing single. possible because it was a ballad. Think about the subject matter of the actual song, a woman who is desperate to make her relationship work and is basically willing to do anything to make it work with her guy. Songs like “hot boyz” and “get it on tonite” were huge. The message wasn’t “let’s get along” it was “let’s get it in”. Instead of “get along with you” i would have chosen “ghetto children” because it has a great message and an infectous beat. I could see that song being used in soundtracks or at least cheesy after school specials. Overall Kaleidoscope is a good first album, i mean Kelis and the Neptunes wrote and or produced EVERY song and it doesn’t get much better than that! The two major problems with this album are the marketing (and or lack there of) as well as the lack of direction in the album. If you’re a writer or performer of any type you know that you have to begin with the end in mind. Your ultimate goal is to produce a cohesive album that flows together, not a clusterfuck of songs that don’t really go together. THAT’S what we ran into with this album “roller rink” was different than “caught out there” than “get along with you”, etc. Again, the album is good if you look at each song individually, but if you’re looking for a well put together album that flows yo no se que decirte…..
Kelis’ second album “wanderland” was released overseas, but not here in the states. Due to poor promotion and lack of vision on the part of her label only one single was released and the album flopped, let’s be honest. Even Kelis’ own label said it: we didn’t know what to do with her. She’s… black…. but…. her music isn’t…. black…. like you have to remember the market was SATURATED with artists, even horrible artists were guaranteed a top ten single if they could get ONE catchy single on their entire album. At the this you had rnb/hip hop, pop and pop-rock (manson, blink 182, no doubt, etc) so where does a Kelis fit in? One needs to look no further than her station on any music radio service and it’s a cluster fuck. You’ve got kelis and Solange which fits and then you’ve got artists like Cherish, Cheri Dennis, Ester Dean, etc. which, those are all good artists, but they don’t really fit with Kelis besides Solange. So what does one do? Instead of carving out a unique line for Kelis and developing a well-crafted album to basically introduce her to the masses her label basically shelved her disc in the states and shipped it overseas.
That brings us to Kelis’ third album “Tasty” which is by far her most successful and well-received. The album started off on a high note with Milkshake; if you were around in the 00s you know the song milkshake even if you don’t know Kelis (Which you should definitely know her just for your own soul salvation). Anyway, that song was EVERYWHERE and everyone LOVED IT!! It has since been used in movies, ad campaigns, commercials, etc. There are just times in life where the perfect storm happens and something brilliant comes from it. I think people were looking for a funky track with heavy bass beats and a fun catchy song to sing along with, in comes “milkshake”. “Trick me” sounds like album filler and an okay song from a b-rate rom-com. “In Public” was a bit forced for me, but “Millionaire” was a huge hit, I LOVE that track. If I were working this album i would have pushed for 5 singles and a mid-summer release. I would have put “Protect my heart” out the week of June 21th, 2003. Summer is starting and people need music to club to and to ride to. I would put this song up against “21 questions” or Justin Timberlake’s “rock your body”. That would give you a solid 3-4 weeks to work the single, do promo, push the video, perform on all the shows, etc. I would go to the Baltimore’s, the New Jersey’s, etc and do radio interviews. I would save my BIG interviews for the second single/album release. THEN push “Milkshake” in late July; the hottest part of the summer, i’d be EVERYWHERE, do product tie-ins including my own ice cream flavor, free milkshakes and concert in NY, Cali and Chi and then a milkshake recipe contest just to begin with. I would have released the album around August 2nd 2003. Do your major talk shows and radio shows, make a second trip up to the video shows and maybe even host your own special on an MTV or BET about creating the album. Third single would be “sugar honey iced tea” and fourth single can either be “rolling through the hood” or “glow” these two singles would chiefly be for urban radio. 5th single would be “Millionaire” this song is funky and could definitely be played on a VH1 or BET. Depending on the video, this song could have huge cross over appeal.
Since then kelis has released several albums, but none of them have lived up to the hype of “Tasty” so what should be her next steps? If i were Kelis i would link back up with the Neptunes to work on a new album, i would actually sit down and just brainstorm different ideas for the album, what’s going on in my life, what do i want to talk about? Kelis is pregnant right now so she could do a song about being a mother, being in love or whatever. Just as long as the music fits. The old days of promo are gone, nowadays fans want access, the want secret shows, the inside track on new music. if Kelis can figure that out then she’s good.