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Kelis : Wanderland

Second LP from crazy-haired diva... room for improvement

Kelis : Wanderland

6 / 10 Ol' Dirty Bastard calls her Thunder Bitch. Broadsheet
newspapers proclaim her the brightest new flame in
feminist hip-pop. Smitten old men twice her age invite
her out on globe-trotting dates - but hey, that's Bono
for you. In our collective fantasies, Kelis Rogers is
already the ghetto-fabulous sex-queen of discodelic
future-funk pop-rock-soul. All she needs now is a
soundtrack which lives up to the alluring image.


'Wanderland' almost does it. Two years after
'Kaleidoscope', with soul-hop superstar producers The
Neptunes back on board and a greater creative input
from Kelis herself, this is a solid sophomore effort.
It's the flash and grab which hits you first - the
stuttering beatskips and staccato sighs of 'Digital World', the perfumed wafting and moist sensuality of
'Flash Back', the slinky bad-boy serenade of 'Daddy'
with its brazen product placement: "Dolce and Gabbana
and a bag made of iguana"
. Kelis remains, ahem,
bling-bling from the strap of her Lulu Guinness
handbag to the tips of her Jimmy Choo high-heeled
sandals. You go, girlfriend.

But beyond the initial shopping-and-funking dazzle,
there is way too much filler here for a hotly
hyped alterna-soul princess with her eyes on the big
prize. Clunky single 'Young, Fresh N' New' is overly
laden with horrible rock-wank guitars and 'Perfect Day'
is its even clumsier twin, a chugging pop-rock-funk
hybrid featuring No Doubt but sounding like nothing
less than sodding Roxette - and not even good
Roxette. Kelis and her backers are probably staking
out this MTV middleground for sound commercial
reasons, but it smacks of one marketing meeting too
many.

And maybe it's because The Neptunes have been busy
producing the entire R&B pantheon this past year,
including their own superlative NERD album, but an
air of creatively impoverished slackness creeps in
about halfway through 'Wanderland'. Consequently the
limitations of Kelis' pleasantly unremarkable voice
and brittle lyrics are thrown into sharper relief than
usual.

'Wanderland' is sassy and spiky and 'street' on the
surface, but church-going conservative underneath.
There's nothing here as arresting as 'Caught Out
There', never mind as jaw-droppingly bootylicious as Destiny's Child's
'Bills, Bills, Bills' or as
supernaturally cool as Aaliyah's 'Try Again'. If Missy
and Madonna stand on one side with Britney and Kylie
on the other, Kelis hovers uncertainly in between.


OK, she's still just 21. She has time, talent and a
whole universe of goodwill on her side. But the
challenge for Ms Thunder Bitch now is to bridge the
gap between what she is and what most of us, Bono
included, would like her to be.

Stephen Dalton

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