You no doubt know Kelis for one song: the 2003 hit “Milkshake,” which was inescapable on the radio, licensed in half of the Hollywood comedies in the 2000s, and — let’s face it — so infectious that it still brings all the boys to the yard. As you can tell from the title of her sixth album, Food keeps up the culinary metaphors from “Milkshake,” and even contains songs called “Breakfast,” “Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy,” and “Jerk Ribs.” The songs cover a range of emotions, primarily those centered on longing and belonging, but the epic confidence we remember from “Milkshake” has been replaced by pensiveness, vulnerability, and even — on lines such as “So much of who we are is from who first taught us how to love,” from “Breakfast” — a bit of earned wisdom. She aims for old-school, gospel-informed soul, with a hint of 1970s folk and torch songs in “Bless the Telephone” and “Floyd,” which are both truly wonderful songs. The album was produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, who eschews his usual forward-thinking, razor-sharp mix of rhythm for a stripped-down feel; the lead single “Jerk Ribs,” for example, is powered by tin-can percussion and a Memphis horn section. The album is 50 minutes, with little chaff. No longer content with the empty calories of milkshakes, Kelis serves up a full, satisfying meal.
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