KELIS – 4TH OF JULY (FIREWORKS)
Kelis really is something of a pop oddity isn’t she. Somehow still going in OH TEN and even managing to obtain a genuine (UK) hit this year with the amazing “Acapella”, but she has never managed to sell albums even at her peak of success with “Tasty”, and only ever manages to score roughly ONE HIT PER ALBUM CAMPAIGN.
Her previous release “Kelis Was Here” was an absolute mess of a campaign. Somehow she managed to get herself a genuine US hit with “Bossy” (a track that suffered a somewhat lukewarm reaction in the UK), and a genuine UK hit with “Little Star” (something that probably amazed everybody involved in promoting that track at the time), but despite these two stabs of chart glory the album was bloated, over-long and the entire campaign screamed of PHONED IN. I don’t think anybody at her label even thought that album would do well, there was no enthusiasm for it from anybody, not the least Kelis herself.
Fast forward a few years, and Kelis nearly quits being a popstar altogether, trains as a chef and then eventually returns with the epic “Acapella”, and fantastic 9 track opus “FLESHTONE”, the album that she has obviously invested the most into since her debut, and it shows. When Kelis can be arsed, she does great things. The whole album was great, oddly enough not so much when taken as individual tracks, some such as “Emancipate” and “Song For The Baby” do not really hold up on their own in my opinion, but as an album listened to in its duration it really really works. Whoever decided to segue the tracks together was a genius.
Whilst “Acapella” was the hit (and it really is great), “Fourth Of July” was the heart of the album. The instant fan favourite and obviously one of the more personal tracks. I think in terms of the Kelis discography, over time this will be regarded as her “I Heard A Rumour” or “Lay Your Love On Me”, not the biggest hit by far, but one of her very best.
I think the track suffered from being a bit too subtle to the casual listener to be a hit, it takes a good few plays for it to really sink in, particularly as the song title isn’t featured in the chorus. It charted at 32 in the UK and quickly vanished as soon as it entered.
I think the song is brilliant however. Whether the track is about God or about her son I really don’t care, I think its a really intelligently written pop song. The video was a huge selling point for me also. Its absolutely gorgeous. I love how little things in the video correspond to what is happening at any one time in the song, for example Kelis shuts her eyes in time to a beat, and during the piano breakdown at the end she dances with a light cable for the entire time of the instrumental. Its really subtle, but it really works for me. The Native American headdress bit is pretty breathtaking too, even if it is probably a bit racist towards Native American people as Kelis clearly has NO CONNECTION with them whatsoever and is just wearing it for fashion, but still it does look mighty pretty.
Following this the rest of the “Fleshtone” project was inevitably doomed to failure, despite shocking continued investment in it from the notoriously lazy Kelis, she has toured the album and shot videos for “Scream” and “Brave”. I have absolutely no idea what her next move is going to be music-wise , and I wouldn’t write her off just yet, the pop toilet hasn’t quite claimed her as a victim, I look forward to seeing what she comes up with.
and just to add to Kelis a couple of things
1. Like I said I love the video, but the advertising of Dr Dre’s headphone and microphone range is a little out of place and grating