n this day and age recycling is an admirable pastime; conservation of the environment, sustainable forests, I’m all for it. Were I feeling particularly environmentally pious and extraordinarily flush with cash I’d even think about buying one of those trees in one of those forests set up by one of those pop stars who like to advertise how sensitive they are to the pains of nature by buying three acres of land in Scotland and encouraging their fans to furnish them with foliage. Christmas is coming! Think of the wrapping paper! All that waste… Of course waste is becoming more and more prevalent now that global enterprises have realised that, yes, kids prefer to piss around in cardboard boxes and throw balls of screwed-up gift-wrap at each other come ten past nine on Christmas Day. And so those self-same boxes become light on content and heavy on packaging. It’s what people want!
There’s a difference between recycling and regurgitating though. Bubba and Tim breaking into passages from Missy or Justin as if Bubba had eaten Tim’s songbook whole and then puked-up the choicest cuts into the midst of some surreal hoedown could be considered recycling (excuse my supremely fucked-up mixed-metaphors). But Kelis and The Neptunes using the same tunes just two years after they first tried them on for size smacks of distasteful regurgitation. Hence Nas stepping in for that bloke out of Clipse for the re-worked (read ‘exactly the fucking same’) “Popular Thug” on Clones, adding that touch of ‘real life couple’ pathos (but nowhere near as well as Belucci and Cassell in Irreversible). Hence the inclusion of “Flashback” on Tasty. They’re both good tunes, for sure, “Flashback” in particular at the moment Kelis enumerates “oh / shit / here we go / a-gain”, but they’re also both tunes on the studiously ignored Wanderland, Kelis’ sophomore album from 2001. That “Flashback” is the third best tune on Tasty, and by some way too, just makes the obvious lack of ideas on show here all the more apparent. The best two tunes? Opener “Trick Me” is a slice of easy, compelling, minimalist funk, and “Milkshake”, by far the best thing here, is a sexually deviant basso-profundo squelch, a hi-hat and a lasciviously lactating lyric. As for the rest? Who knows. “Millionaire” has Andre 3000 repeating the phrase “I woke up early this morning” over and over again, and therefore ought to be great, but somehow isn’t. “Protect My Heart” is Neptunes-by-numbers sensitivity, and nowhere near in the league of something like “Get Along With You” from Kaleidoscope. “Stick Up” gathers some strength from its none-more-simple organ riff, but… No. A host of producers other than The Neptunes are roped in, but none of them bring anything new to Kelis’ musical character.
It’s difficult to perceive just where Kelis is right now in terms of her relevance. Timbaland obviously finds himself driven to greater things when working with strong personalities, as the new Missy album testifies, and The Neptunes’ work with Snoop, Jay Z and Justin Timberlake suggests likewise; it’s certainly the five tracks they produced which stand out most here. So what’s up with Kelis? At first glance she would appear to have twice the charisma of a Beyonce or Ashanti, her debut album was more than promising, and even Wanderland was far from a bad record, but this… this is… unmemorable. Uninspired. Dull. And, at the moment especially when there’s so much colour in the alternatives, that’s unforgivable.