Saturday, February 3, 2018

Kelela - Take Me Apart Review

Does the hype surrounding Kelela's debut album spurn more from the mediocrity of her contemporaries, or the talents of the artist herself? At times, at least to me, its felt like both. On one end, you have a by-the-books seamstress crafting quality R&B cuts that borrow influence from the 90's as much as the future. On the other, a noticeable lack of up-and-coming R&B singers who can stand out from the crowd. Plus, her feature work strays more towards the tastemakers, like Danny Brown, Gorillaz, or Clams Casino, than one-and-done Trap or Pop artists trying to jump aboard the all-too bloated Alternative R&B trend. That's not to say Take Me Apart separates itself as successfully as I had hoped. The direction of the lyrical content and the similarity of the sleek sounds evidence of that. Let's just say, Kelela's got a long way to go before she catches FKA Twigs. It's been two years since the five-track M3LL155X, nearly three since LP1, and no I haven't forgotten just how progressive and daunting R&B's favorite enigma is.

Perhaps that's not Kelela's goal though. Perhaps I wrongly assumed her to be an innovative shapeshifter given the aforementioned visionary artists she's worked alongside. Her identity, it seems, is best expressed through Take Me Apart's title track, wherein Kelela submits herself to submissive desires, all whilst assuredly showing her strength in the process. One of many positive side effects of the feminist movement in R&B, that perceived weakness and subjection only role-play for women who understand their power under the sheets. And believe me, if labeling this by-the-books R&B wasn't indicative enough, Take Me Apart sure is sensual. Tracks like 'Frontline' or 'Blue Light' pound away, either by using steel drums or stern synths, all while Kelela's vocals offset the aggression with passion and lust, like a silken sheet draped over two lovers caught up in the moment. The weakest tracks here tend to be those that embrace the ensuing drama of an ineffectual relationship, like 'Onanon' or 'Truth Or Dare.'

A few spotty low points aside, Take Me Apart really does posses a fair deal of high-quality Alternative R&B. The production throughout is polished and refined, both in the traditionally sincere cuts like 'Waitin' or the UK Bass-bound bangers like lead single 'LMK.' There's also 'Enough,' which seems to intwine both halves, scaling back the in-your-face production with something as tactile as Ambient Pop, all whilst losing Kelela's voice in a machine of automated repetition. The major problem of Take Me Apart is that, while there's a lot of good tracks, there's none that step above and stand the test of time. There is one that could achieve that plateau, as it aspires to the fleetingness of relationships by using empty space, an extravagant structure, and a mesmerizing hook. That's closer 'Altadena,' likely my favorite track here. The impact of the finale may be exacerbated by the wear and tear of an exhausting project though, one that drains into 'Altadena' with a six-song streak of undemanding tracks, excluding 'Blue Light.' However, 'Altadena' ends Take Me Apart with style, bringing the warmth, comfort, and calmness of a late night cuddle session following a ravenous night. A successful finish to a successful project, but one that could've been even more had it not been tampered by cliches.


1 comment:

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