Still Out There: 20 Years Of Kelis' Debut Album 'Kaleidoscope'

Still Out There: 20 Years Of Kelis' Debut Album 'Kaleidoscope'

It remains a deeply influential masterpiece...

Kelis made her debut in 1999 with her unforgettable afro-futurist studio album ‘Kaleidoscope’, piecing together 14 pop-edged R&B bangers.

Executive produced by The Neptune, the colourful phenomena turns 20 this year complete with an extended cut of ‘Kaleidoscope’ in celebration of its anniversary.

Vibrant, wacky, and whimsical are just a few words to describe Kelis – indeed, from her fashion to her music, the musician has never strayed far from innovative. Having dropped her debut studio album in 1999, ‘Kaleidoscope’ rounded off the Noughties with a glance of the mania ahead of its time.

Whilst the 90s are often cast as being dominated by the sounds of Britpop and grunge, once the 2000’s hit us pop, hip-hop and R&B couldn’t be more pivotal.

‘Kaleidoscope’ encompassed the essence of the 2000s a year before we entered it, but Kelis was already ahead of her time, having spent 1998 in Sandbridge, Virginia compiling the album, and later confirming in an interview, “this has been a work-in-progress for the last 21 years.”

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Album opener ‘Intro’ is peculiar, yet eccentric; short of two minutes the monologue swirls extraterrestrial noises, tears of a new-born, and daunting keywork - sound affects you might not have expected for her introductory track. The best part about this single is that it simply doesn’t prepare you for the rest, and no matter how many times you listen to it you can’t link it to the following tracks. And that’s how ‘Kaleidoscope’ welcomes you, with complete interpretation.

Album standouts include, ‘Good Stuff,’ ‘Caught Out There,’ and ‘Get Along With You’; the first three singles and only tracks to get official music videos. Track-listed in that order, ‘Good Stuff,’ endures funk bass wobbles and her signature husky vocal delivery.

‘Caught Out There’ is easily one of the most memorable tracks of the 90s, lyrically and instrumentally this track, no matter how old you were, caught you in a pit of rage. You could be perfectly humble and sing along from your chest like your life depended on it.

Meanwhile ‘Get Along With You’ was the perfect round-off of the three singles as her first ballad release.

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The last three tracks shown in the original ’98 release show drastic changes, from buoyant hip-hop beats to somber acoustics, completing with soulful R&B. Kelis anchors ‘Kaleidoscope’ itself as she flickers between her vulnerabilities of heartache in ‘Get Along With You,’ and ‘No Turning Back,’ to the struggle of racial injustice in ‘Ghetto Children,’ to her unapologetic repellency in ‘Caught Out There’.

‘Kaleidoscope’ is more than just a 'pop' album. Weaving in soul, funk and R&B tendencies, the chameleon of albums expresses Kelis in all her strengths. As profound hard-hitting beats dominate the backdrop of each single, it's with her vocal range, and technicalities can you see where artists of today and the early 2000s got their influences from.

Kelis' calming spoken word delivery can be referenced to Alicia Keys, you can even picture where P!nk got her vocal inspiration in her 2001 LP ‘Missundaztood’. ‘Kaleidoscope’ is an album harnessing sounds some of the biggest artists today were trying to reinterpret in their music in the early 2000s.

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In the extended cut Kelis includes descriptions of the vocal features from the original ’99 release. Including Terrar on track two, Marita on track five, N.E.R.D on track nine and more. However with this year’s alterations the album now see’s participation from Bump & Flex Radio, Moraels Club Mix, Pharrell, Neptunes, Mix Show, and Soul inside Radio. Whilst The Neptunes’ extended cut of ’Caught Out There,’ rests as a singular instrumental – one might add we are excited to see sampled as a potential grime number. 

With the extended cut adding an additional six tracks, it’s fair to say the anniversary of ‘Kaleidoscope’ takes Kelis’ afro-futurism one step further. Tracks 16 - 20 are four alternative remixes of the original ‘Get Along With You.’ With Morales Club Mix giving you a pinch of summer house, soul inside radio pushing a slow, funk sound, Bump And Flex round off the unlimited addition with a 90s garage, club-centric remix.

Not only was ‘Kaleidoscope’ ahead of its time, it has retained lingering over its peers. As if that wasn’t enough, Kelis was only 20 years old when she released this triumph. Whilst you were more than likely studying, travelling, or sat at home, Kelis was busy dropping her debut studio album when scarcely out of her teens. Those stomping cuts remain at the forefront, while also defining the turn of a new century.

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20th anniversary edition of 'Kaleidoscope' is out now.

Words: Laviea Thomas

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