Kelela – “Frontline” Video

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Kelela is an R&B singer in the truest sense of the word, and all of her music fits squarely within the genre. But she always manages to find oblique, abstract takes on the genre, singing breathy, sideways vocals over woozily-structured cutting-edge tracks. And Kelela’s new video for “Frontline,” one of the standout tracks from … More »

Kelela surfs the Take Me Apart success wave around the globe, announces imminent tour dates

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It didn’t make our list of year-end favorites, but I’m willing to usurp the consensus view of the TMT staff and unilaterally make Kelela’s Take Me Apart our (unofficial) 51st favorite album of 2017!

A highlight among Take Me Apart’s numbered memories was the track “Blue Light,” where Kelela sang about letting the “chains” “fall down” and submitting to a passionate love. Fans in multiple continents would do well to drop their own chains and realize the wonderfulness imbued in Take Me Apart, especially since chains are especially inhibitive when it comes to going out in public! Those heavy shackles will simply need to be shed if you plan on catching one of Kelela’s just announced shows in Oceania, Europe, or stateside in the coming months.

The shows — which kick off TOMORROW, btw — are relatively few in number given the number of miles she’s racking up in the process, but I guess you probably need a lot of time to recuperate between gigs when you’re in the labor-intensive business of making audience members melt into a pool that requires mopping up afterwards. Those poor venue janitors…

Kelela dates:

01.13.18- Melbourne, Australia – Sidney Myer Music Bowl *
01.17.18 – Brisbane, Australia – Riverstage *
01.19.18 – Auckland, New Zealand- The Studio
01.20.18 – Sydney, Australia- The Domain *
02.19.20 – Milan, Italy – Teatro Principe
02.22.18 – London, UK – Roundhouse
02.23.18 – Bristol, UK – SWX
02.26.18 – Boston, MA – Royale
02.27.18 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of the Living Arts
03.01.18 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
03.02.18 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
04.13.18 – Indio, CA – Coachella
04.20.18 – Indio, CA – Coachella
06.01-03.18 – New York, NY – Governors Ball

* The xx

The 10 Best Covers Of 2017

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Now that the year’s over, it’s time to go over a list of the 10 best covers to emerge from the various corners of the music world over the past 12 months. I mean, it’s time for a lot of things, many of which are more important, per se, and say a lot more about … More »

The 50 Best Music Videos Of 2017

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In this space in past years, I’ve usually written about which music-video directors had the best years. It’s a variation of the auteur theory, as visionaries like Nabil and Hiro Murai have used artists as vehicles for their ideas and approaches. This year, though, it feels like the artists themselves who are driving things, and … More »

Solange Recruits Kelela, Dev Hynes, & More For Calvin Klein Ads

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Solange has partnered with Calvin Klein for a new advertising campaign. She recruited a cast of fellow musicians for a photo shoot that includes Dev Hynes, Kelela, Charlift’s Caroline Polachek, and Kindness’ Adam Bainbridge. They are supposed to represent a “chosen” musical family. Check out some images from the campaign above and below. [photoembed id=”1972383″ … More »

The 5 Best Videos Of The Week

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Thor: Ragnarok has two different battle scenes set to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and if I could put both of them on this list, I would. Instead, this week’s picks are below. More »

Watch Kelela Cover Sade’s “Like A Tattoo” In The BBC Live Lounge

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The great Los Angeles R&B singer Kelela is known for singing over head-spinning, futuristic beats. But as she shows on her stunning new album Take Me Apart, she’s a powerful, emotionally direct singer, capable of great smoothness even if that’s the opposite of what her instrumental track is conveying. And on a recent visit … More »

Watch Kelela’s Gorgeous “LMK” Performance On Jools Holland

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Last week, the adventurous, avant-garde R&B singer Kelela released the absolutely stunning album Take Me Apart. And like St. Vincent and Beck, she was a musical guest on the most recent episode of the BBC’s live-music show Later… With Jools Holland. On the show, she did a pretty amazing version of the … More »

Music Review: Kelela – Take Me Apart

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Take Me Apart

[Warp; 2017]

Rating: 3/5

If we say that the personal is inherently political, can that be enough? Take Me Apart stakes itself in totality on an answer in the affirmative.

On the one hand, the album lies very much in the lineage of (seemingly) apolitical romance that’s been the majority positionality of music in the genres that make up the past to its “future R&B” (R&B itself, jazz, neo soul). And indeed, which has been the raison d’être of “pop” music tout court, as the romantic and the sexual took the place of religion as a source of transcendental meaning and of the identity of the self in secular society.

On the other, Kelela in interviews clearly positions the work in the lineage of recent artists explicitly speaking from and to blackness — Solange, Beyoncé, and Kendrick Lamar (and perhaps in a more similarly sideways fashion, Frank Ocean). And she explores the experience of being a woman in a patriarchal world who’s making music in a patriarchal industry. These two facets of identity can’t be unknitted, either in her reflections (an apt word for this album, as we’ll see) or in the music itself.

Conceptually, then, Take Me Apart is a statement made very much in the face of misogynoir, the place where racism meets sexism. Kelela has self-questioned the lack of any overt reference to blackness on the album, but argues that portraying tenderness and vulnerability in and of itself should be read as an act of feminist blackness and of defiance. Having said that, her claims to portraying the very existence of female sexual desire, and particularly a masochistic female role equivalent to a power bottom, as revolutionary or rebellious in and of themselves don’t quite ring true in the raunch culture era.

To problematize this positioning is not to say that the problems she identifies don’t exist — they very much do. But the freight of significance that the album carries is more fascinating in the web of discursive meaning Kelela has woven around it than in the album itself. Which is perhaps representative of the limitations of music’s possibilities to speak truth to power in an age of self-empowerment philosophy. An age where to break silence is a political act that happens so repetitively that it constitutes rather than deconstructs the machine. An age where it’s the fate of political works of art to become unintentional simulacra, making their claims from foundations too slick to provide the necessary purchase in a world where resources both literal and discursive are proceeding to exhaustion.

And the exteriors here are too smooth. There are a few interesting janks beneath the surface, the kind we associate with Kelela’s previous work and with the Night Slugs/Fade to Mind artists featured here, who at their best serve up a divine mélange of dissonance and earworm. Of such were Kelela’s finest moments until now, and a handful of tracks here (“Frontline,” “Better,” “Onandon”) begin to capture the same vibe. But for the most part, Take Me Apart is sonically more akin to a soundtrack, one for neon-tinged late-night driving. Or for bedrooms with ceiling mirrors — those slippery reflections…

New Music Friday: YAYA at the top, Sam Smith at the bottom, various songs in between

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Song of the week:
YAYA — ‘In My Body’
YAYA’s from Sweden (of course she is), she is brilliant (see also: ‘It’s Alright’), and ‘In My Body’ is a lightly idiosyncratic but refreshingly unambiguous 21st Century pop wonder.

Wrong of the week:
Sam Smith — ‘Pray’

Additional notes:

  • Q4 ALERT: Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton have a Christmas song out today.
  • Miss Li has this week’s best songtitle: ‘The Day I Die (I Want You To Celebrate)’.
  • Like all Maroon 5 songs, the new Maroon 5 song (which features Julia Michaels) would be 10x more enjoyable with a different lead vocalist.
  • Little Mix songwriter Camille Purcell‘s solo career has properly launched this week with ‘Body’, which feels like quite a good start. (She was also on the Ghosted/TMS song ‘Ghosted’ back in July.)

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