Pick of the Geek – Kelis Kaleidoscope

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Before her milkshake caused impromptu gatherings at yards across the world, Kelis made her debut with this 2000 album, produced and chiefly written by the then-little-known duo of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo.  Kaleidoscope is obviously of a piece with the late-90s hip-hop and R&B zeitgeist, it’s funky, chilly, minimal sound sitting nicely alongside contemporaneous releases by Aaliyah and Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliot.  Yet it also has an eccentric character of its own: the sweeping Mafia twists standard gangsta posturing into a fatalistic widescreen romance worthy of Francis Ford Coppola, and the bouncy organ riff that powers Game Show stays delightful through the song’s five minutes.  Kelis steps in as songwriter for three songs, including Roller Rink, which harks ahead to the dance-pop she explored on later hits like A Capella.  Best of all are the first two singles: Good Stuff, which pairs an irresistible chant-along chorus to a loping, vaguely menacing bassline, and Caught Out There, which remains perhaps her most iconic moment.  Charting in the UK on the strength of imported copies alone – a big deal in those pre-download days – it was released in this country officially to coincide with Valentine’s Day, an irresistibly sick joke.  As the infectious soft soul of the verses are increasingly overrun by a multi-tracked army of Kelises, the song’s tale of venal boyfriends builds into a bellowed, distorted chorus whose bracing ferocity demonstrates why mainstream success was still a few years off for her.  It was the mainstream’s loss.

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