Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Kelis – Acapella

Q: What do you get if you cross Zooey Deschanel and Shakira?…


Al Shipley: I’m relieved that this song’s title is just a metaphor, clumsy as it is, because honestly Kelis’s voice is only appealing in the right surroundings, and could probably be downright intolerable unaccompanied. Can’t say I love this, but I’m still glad she went in a spacier dance direction, since her initial post-Neptunes joints featured some pretty hamhanded attempts at a more aggressive hip hop sound, and this definitely suits her better.

Alex Macpherson: Oh, this strives so desperately for the kind of epic elementalism of, say, Quentin Harris’s “My Joy” or Larry Heard’s “The Sun Can’t Compare” or the dance mix of Angie Stone’s “Wish I Didn’t Miss You”. It doesn’t quite succeed; the central metaphor is perhaps a touch overcooked, stretched a bit too thin, but Kelis’s stateliness is still compelling. Sadly, it is also awkwardly mismatched with the beat, which — shockingly for that useless hack David Guetta — fails to convey any sense of grandeur or majesty whatsoever. A rudimentary staccato synth playing one note in the verse is woefully inadequate; with all Kelis’s talk of orchestras and symphonies, the very least we should be able to expect are some fucking strings. The actual acapella of this track would assuredly be preferable.

Anthony Easton: Big on the gay club charts, which is a case of marketing over experience. Figure that the message would suggest something bigger, more over the top.

Alfred Soto: Creamy like a half dozen Donna Summers chained to the mountain peak from which they sing “I Remember Yesterday, smoky like Joni Mitchell after 1980, Kelis updates her CV filled with estimable emoting atop good grooves. As earworm as the chorus hook (and metaphor) is, the backing track is gay-disco-rote though. Could it be her whole life is acapella because the music is boring?

Kat Stevens: Guetta’s signature synth creaks into action once more like a pair of rusty garden shears, but lubricated this time by a) a lovely down-the-plughole gurgle that firmly ticks my techno-lovin’ box, and b) an ethereal Kelis on reasonable form (I particularly like the deadpan middle eight about crayons). The end result isn’t exactly the Banging Gardens of Babylon, but “Acapella” definitely has the serenity and pleasantness of the Temperate House at Kew.

Alex Ostroff: At the turn of the millennium, Kelis was one of most consistent and interesting artists in R&B, ushering in the Neptunes era of dominance with the weird and wonderful pop of “Caught Out There” and her guest turn on O.D.B.’s “Got Your Money”. Since parting ways with them circa Tasty, she’s had more than a few missteps. Teaming up with David Guetta sounded like another move in the wrong direction. Unexpectedly, it’s a good look for both of them. Kelis chants a loping and looping melody that sits in her mid-range and floats atop Guetta’s pulsating beats. For his part, Guetta somehow reins in his more obnoxious tendencies and turns in a fairly reserved house track. The soundscapes here morph and shift as much as those of his work with BEP, but do so smoothly – evolving gently rather than abruptly changing course. The combined effect is simultaneously languid, tribal and trance-like. When Kelis finally gets her a capella moment at the climax, it’s more than earned. Mind you, as good as this is, there must exist a remix that is at least double in length and triple in awesomeness.

Edward Okulicz: This starts out terrifically – David Guetta’s robotic blips are an ideal backdrop for Kelis’ throaty musings. But they don’t give her enough runway to really launch into the chorus, which falls flat and unconvincingly. But it’s his fault, not hers — when the chorus is sung without ornamentation towards the end, it really does soar.

Martin Skidmore: There’s a Moroder-Summer cold sweep to it, and I’ve always loved Kelis’s voice. The “you light up my life” lyrics are apparently addressed to her son rather than a lover, but the glacial tone of the whole thing doesn’t seem to express that terribly well: sounding icy on such a song is an odd tactic.

Spencer Ackerman: Did the label do her this injustice? Bad management (and bad MGMT)? Or is this misstep her own fault? The chorus must bring a smirk to Pharrell and Nas’s faces if this is the new life she celebrates.

Ian Mathers: Really, by the time she’s done Kelis is going to have one hell of a Best Of collection. “Acapella” doesn’t sound anything like “Milkshake,” which didn’t sound much like “Caught Out There,” and so on. What’s amazing about “Acapella” (aside from that disorienting, genuinely trippy video) is the way that Kelis sounds totally at home singing this kind of very au courant synth-heavy production (by fucking David Guetta no less — easily the best thing I’ve heard from him, although that may just be due to his working with a better class of singer) and how awesome that chorus sounds, heartfelt and imperious all at once. I would gladly listen to a whole album like this.

Iain Mew: A clever concept, well executed, with an enjoyably chunky throb to it that Kelis sails serenely above. It also manages to sounds both very much of the moment and not quite like anything else around. Does sound like she’s singing “bass like a toilet” though.

7 Responses to “Kelis – Acapella”

  1. this song is so damn awkward

  2. Sadly, it is also awkwardly mismatched with the beat, which — shockingly for that useless hack David Guetta — fails to convey any sense of grandeur or majesty whatsoever.

    yes exactly — it’s hard for me to find anything to like in david guetta’s sledgehammer style wrt song considering how amazing something like the falke/braxe remix of “bossy” is.

  3. I don’t hear anything sledgehammer-y about the beat here (although obv. Guetta can certainly be guilty of that), this song is pure ecstacy imo. I love the huge Amerie harmonies.

  4. This song is pure brilliance. (The video even moreso.) Tribal techno from the woman who did “Caught Out There”/”Milkshake”/”Bossy?” Genius. As transcendent as “I Feel Love.”

  5. It sounds so much like something else but I can’t quite figure out what just yet

  6. Album of the year so far for me! And this song sounds much better in context.

  7. Yes.