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Kelis

Tasty
Star Trak/Arista Records

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Bennifer draws attention no matter the circumstance. Jay-B is a bit crunchy, but goes down all the same.

 

But Nasis? Kelas? Doesn't have the same ring or the same bounce. Luckily, fashion vixen and songstress Kelis doesn't need a famous rapper/actor fiancé to help define her. She does a swell job on her own.

 

And forget 2003's promise to birth the next diva messiah since the last crucified one, Mariah Carey. (Or Whitney Houston, depending on who you ask -- alas, even Jesus wasn't killed alone.) You line 'em up, we'll knock 'em down: Britney, Pink, Auuughhh-illera, Mya, Alicia Keys, the aforementioned, Clay Aiken -- none of them delivered on what was supposed to be the biggest music year for women since Spice Girls fever.

 

And then there was Kelis with Tasty -- this year's prophecy-fulfilling marvel; that a goddess of substance will bless music charts with her presence. And to the listeners who'll cry what substance exists in "my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard"? I say, "Listen beyond the song that could be the theme music for Comedy Central's The Man Show, and you'll be a believer."

 

The ubiquitous Neptunes production team, who introduced the world to Kelis, produces five of these 13 songs. Former CDs Kaleidoscope -- where Kelis was pink before Pink -- and Wanderland -- justifiably canned in the U.S., only available over the 'Net, overseas and over hangovers -- compelled Neptunes to take production credit over those entire projects. Limiting Neptunes' contributions for Tasty was probably Kelis' best career move for this CD, which she executive-produced. Granted, they give her some gems with the derrrty-yet-fabulous "Flashback" and with "Milkshake," which is currently shaking down airwaves the world over. "Sugar Honey Iced Tea" and "Rolling Through the Hood" are some of the most soulful Neptunes songs delivered since early work they did with SWV.

 

But the welcome surprise of Tasty is that the best songs are those not done by the most sought-after production team in the galaxy. Those awards go to Outkast's Andre 3000 and Raphael Saadiq. (Hmmm, Kelis, Andre, Saadiq? How's that for a new Lucy Pearl line-up?) Saadiq continues to generously give his best to singers other than himself with the beautifully woven "Glow" and "Marathon."

 

Meanwhile, the 3000-produced "Millionaire" is everything that an over-hyped collaboration between two of the most seminally elaborate musical artists in existence today could be, plus a pack of a gum. Over a sped-up Prince (circa '86) drum pattern and keyboard arrangement, Andre 3000 and Kelis spin tales of having all the money they could want yet not having true happiness -- it's classic blues over souped-up funk, and the combination is cleverly moving.

 

Other collaborations, such as the must-have song with beau Nas "In Public," are pure exhibition. "In Public" will please the voyeuristic, but feel like an intrusion for others. The Rockwilder-produced 33-speed disco beat behind it, though, is enough for the male or female listener to tune out the words, though, and imagine themselves in Nas' shoes.

 

Kelis has always positioned herself as a sex kitten. And she has no qualms about describing her orgasms or her pole positions in her songs. What she doesn't do is hold a gun to your head to make you believe it a la some of the "divas" mentioned above. There's just as much body in her voice and style as there is in her voluptuous figure. Repeated listens to Tasty will give new meaning to "the second coming."

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