Kelis’s Flesh Tone accomplished something nearly unthinkable: making David Guetta tracks like “Acapella” sound something other than tiresome. The rest of the album’s also good to great. And it’s even better that it exists when Kelis is an artist who, outside her cult fanbase, too often gets reduced to milkshake memes. (One’s bound to be written any time somebody mentions her. This arguably counts.) Better still is that for her comeback, instead of doing the obvious and letting herself be grandfathered into the Pro Tools tracks of this year’s standard electronic producers, for new track “Distance” she went with the generally underused Skream. It pays off. Listen below.
“Distance” works largely because of its central metaphor; the track’s like a sigh that’s half petered-out. Kelis sings about wanting distance, but the track’s already pulled away, chilly and diffident. It’s a common trick only because it works so well. The rest is gorgeous if subdued, a garage-inspired track whose verses and choruses come with melody and tension, just never quite volume, and that rewards repeat if not quite immediate listens. That big immediate single will come eventually, later on in the album cycle; in the meantime, give this its space.