Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 3, 2014
"Food," the new album from R&B singer Kelis, is a rich and complex banquet of sounds that might come as a surprise to those who know the singer only from her 2003 hit "Milkshake." Her smoky vocals swirl through lush soundscapes with ringing keys, singing strings and well-placed brassy blasts. The album soars with spirit, aches with heart and resounds with a warmth that seemed subdued in her last release, 2010’s "Flesh Tone," an album that veered close to industrial dance.
"If you listen to (‘Flesh Tone’) sans dance beats, I think you may feel differently," Kelis said by email from a train between gigs in Europe. "It was an extremely heart filled project for me."
This might be a fair point, but it underlines the strength of the new album which by contrast exudes heart. "Food" was produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek and his grandiose production style complements the emotional and lyrical depth of her vocals astonishingly well.
"We just have this chemistry in the studio, unpretentious and honest," Kelis said. "I never wanted it to stop."
Beyond the title track food is a running motif through the album with a series of songs that flesh out metaphors of food and love, "Jerk Ribs," "Cobbler" and "Biscuits and Gravy" to name a few. It’s not an accident. Several years back, on a whim, she decided to take a culinary training course.
"I was watching a TV show and a commercial for cooking school came on and I thought, ‘I can do that!’" she said. She became a saucier, and has a new line of sauces called Feast in the works along with a new show on the Cooking Channel called "Saucy and Sweet."
At South By Southwest Kelis will be riding around in her food truck serving up saucy dishes from noon to 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Fans can follow her on twitter @iamkelis for details on her location. Kelis plays official showcases 9:50 p.m. Wednesday at Stubb’s, midnight Thursday at Clive Bar and 1 a.m. Friday at Hype Hotel.