Kelis : Wanderland

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

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: [I]”Dolce and Gabbana

and a bag made of iguana”[/I]. 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 [I]good[/I]

Roxette. Kelis and her backers are probably staking

out this MTV middleground for sound commercial

reasons, but it smacks of one marketing meeting too



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


‘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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