Kelis: Rumble (Single review)

Jonathan O’Shea returns with a review of the latest cut from Neo-Soul, hip-hop Diva Kelis, Rumble, the second helping from recently released album ‘Food.’ 

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Black. Keys.

Immediately, those are the two words which leap out from the speakers as the intro to this Kelis comeback slides incongruously ear-wards. Only when she hits us with the opening line does it become apparent that this tune isn’t another from the non-stop hit factory of the boys from Akron, Ohio.

Incidentally, Kelis will share the stage with the authors of ‘Next Girl’, to which ‘Rumble’s intro bears at least a passing resemblance, at the much-awaited Latitude festival this summer.

The laid-back, tumbling brass refrain also recalls Mark Ronson’s mid-noughties output, as the ex-Mrs Nas (or Ms Rogers, or whatever she puts on her library card application form these days) departs markedly from the floor fillers of previous release ‘Flesh Tone’.

On the second release from new album, ‘Food’, Kelis grudgingly ‘welcomes’ a spurned lover back into her life: ‘I’d just got used to my space’, she laments before regretfully documenting their troubled joint history.

Naturally, she then dredges up the requisite melodrama we expect from one of pop’s most eccentric spirits, conflictingly belting out: ‘Baby, don’t go!’ in her trademark raspy soulful holler.

Kelis has never had a no.1 UK single, can 'Rumble' remedy that?
Kelis has never had a no.1 UK single, can ‘Rumble’ remedy that?

She eventually resolves: ‘I’m so glad you gave back the keys’, but it’s all a little underwhelming lyrically and lacks the innovative bite we’ve come to expect from this relative veteran of the R&B-pop scene.

It’s a long old time since Kelis so compellingly yelled “I hate you so much right now!” into the waiting abyss, so it’s natural that her style should progress, if not exactly mellow.

The reviews for ‘Food’ are predominantly positive – the strutting ‘Jerk Ribs’  is a more promising taster for what’s to come – so it’s far too early to fear that the milkshake has soured.

Those whose appetites are not satiated by this new direction should seek out the Breach remix, which more resembles her earlier output and tellingly has more YouTube hits than the original mix.

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Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

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