Why Haven’t They Blown? Kelis

by Yvette Travillian


When I think about what I was listening to say 10 years ago, I’m quite surprise that a lot of my favorite artist from back then aren’t like wam-bam in your face today. Kelis being one of those artists. I mean she’s in the spotlight due to personal drama but as for the music she’s pretty much null and void.

She first came around the scene in 1999. The year I was deeeep into alterative ish: Esthero was my ruler, Soulstice was my peer, and Lenny Kravitz was dream man. Although I was into the left sided genres of music, hip hop and R&B were still my heart. So when I first caught glimpse of Kelis in her video ‘Caught Out There’ from the album Kaleidoscope, musically I thought I was hitting my crescendo.

The the track (which was produced along with the entire album by the Neptune’s) was just ill on some many different levels (it was r&b, hip hop and alternative all in one) and the video which was directed by Hype Williams when he was just on fiyah starred a new chick to the game, who appeared to have a really bad temper, an unusual dope kind of voice and an ill style that to this day is still being replicated. Her anthem stated “I hate you so much right not – ahhhhhhhhh” This song was ballsy, artistic and debatably daring. I loved it! And I thought everyone else would too but I was surprised not to see her on TRL or hear the song being dreadfully repeatedly on the radio every day.

Her next video which was even doper than the first, ‘Get Along With You’ looked like Tim Burton had sneaked into Kelis’ dream – chilled there for a minute then reiterated the whole thing to Paul Hunter (the director). And again Kelis looked like no other female vocalist in the business at that time. She uccessfully showed off her unique vocals on a song that was or at least should have been an anthem for young heart-broken girls. But it was getting very little  play on BET and I don’t think I ever saw it on MTV.

And then like that she was gone – and re-emerged a couple of years later singing the infamous Milkshake song, which to this day I believe was her biggest hit. I mean she ‘blew’ per se once this joint dropped; from the hip hop clubs to the gay clubs – Milkshake was the summer anthem and everybody could sing along to it (but honestly, because of the hotness that came off of Kaleidoscope, this was not one of my favorites, but whatever). Interestingly enough, most people who were in the club shakin’ their milkshakes had no idea who Kelis was. Most thought it was her first single and I along with them waited for the next big ‘hit’. But nothing came.


Her last, I guess ‘hit’ was  Bossy which dropped in 2007  and I thought the song was pretty hot ( honestly anything featuring my man $hort – I’m gonna jump on). But it really was good and like all her other songs,  Bossy was bold, it contained a great hook and was accompanied by and tight video. And again like all the other it too also came and went. And since then the silence has  became deafening.

And now here we are 2010 and word on the street nets is that she’s in the studio working on the her next project and who’s to say if it’s just going to be another case of history repeating itself… But if you look at all these videos you would think Kelis at this point would be on some Beyonce, GaGa, Rhianna, type of stat – right? And my question is why isn’t she?? Is the problem the major labels -who still just don’t really know what to do with her, so maybe she should consider going indie? Could it be that (we) the music consumers are just somehow unconsciously missing the boat? Or is she just a one hit per album type of artist?

I’m not sure at this point but Kelis is my girl and here’s hoping that she finally somehow breaks through sometime this year.

  • Nicole

    sweet read!! i love trick me, too :)

  • Stone

    You know, it’s hard for eccentric Black women to break out into the marketplace. It seems like if you’re not like Mary J or Keisha Cole (artists I DO admire, don’t get it twisted) then you will be forced to sit on a shelf. Peep: Joi, Jack Davey and Janel Monae for references.

    Anyway, Kels is dropping a new album in 2010, however she’s going in an all dance direction, working with such artists as the Crookers. From what I hear it’s VERY left field, so I have a feeling that it won’t see the light of day in the US, much like Wanderland.

  • YTravillian

    I do agree – it’s hard for a black female ‘eccentric’ artist to break through. Especially back then but sadly even more so now. Peep Solange’s new alt’ steeze and notice how well that DIDN’T go. And she’s more relatable to the kids these days but it was still unable to really move. And surprisingly I though that the album wasn’t half bad.

    Kelis’ new music… Not sure I’m really like what I’ve heard so far but I do highly doubt it will blow here. Europe; possibly – they are much more open and accepting of artist’s such as she.


  • Danielle

    I’ve been wondering the same thing myself! Kelis deserves to be a lot bigger than she is now. I guess it’s because she never fit any kind of mold of what a Black female singer should look like, act like, sing like, etc. She’s not easy to market. That’s my take anyway. You could ask the same thing about Joi, Res, Fefe Dobson,Jack Davey of J*Davey. Not that any of those women haven’t had their successes but I feel like with their genuine talent, they should be as ubiquitous as the Gagas, the Beyonces, the Rihannas.

  • Stone

    Yep, Wanderland was Kelis’ second album that never dropped in the US:

    The Japanese bonus edition even had a cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit:

    She was WAY ahead of her time.

    And yeah, I forgot to add Res and Solange to that list too.

  • ytravillian

    Danielle – FeFe is another great example. When I first saw her ‘Take Me Away’ video, I just knew she was gonna blow… then Avril came on and that was a wrap for her. Funny, because i just read an article on Fe Fe and she’s hollering that Rhianna swaggered jacked her (and Kelis is also claiming that same thing). So now it’s like these girls are pissed that their not on and pointing fingers at their so called peers.

  • FinchyKing

    I don’t know why Kelis hasn’t blown up! Maybe she just hasn’t had her “one” song yet. Every artist has their one song-Britney-Baby one more time-Beyonce-Crazy in Love-Rihanna-Umbrella-etc…. Maybe she isn’t working with the right producers, she should have had her “one” song along time ago. Does she write her own stuff?

  • Lisa

    Soooo pissed that Kelis isn’t on, I loved her first album, actually I loved all of them she’s my favorite alternative vocalist. Res also fits, I just don’t know why people aren’t accepting especially because it seems like we as blacks are becoming more accepting of other types of music.

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