Kelis Was Here could have been subtitled …But the Neptunes Weren’t. This fourth CD from the R&B/hip-hop chanteuse is, in fact, the first not to feature the production skills of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the pair responsible for crafting Kelis’ dairy-industry-pleasing 2003 hit ”Milkshake.” Not that the CD is short of heavyweight hitmakers, with Scott Storch, Max Martin, Gnarls Barkley’s Cee-Lo, and ubiquitous Black Eyed Peas overlord will.i.am all taking turns behind the studio desk.
The results are eclectic, erratic, and lacking anything likely to repeat the success of ”Milkshake.” On the will.i.am-produced ”Till the Wheels Fall Off,” a slinky homage to early-’70s funk, Kelis sounds huskily terrific, and the pounding, Timbalandesque ”Blindfold Me” (actually overseen by Jamie Foxx/Ludacris collaborator Polow Da Don) proves the perfect launchpad for the singer’s sex-object-on-her-own-terms persona. Meanwhile, the clattering call-and-response track ”What’s That Right There” (another will.i.am production) seductively continues the foodstuff as erotic metaphor of ”Milkshake,” as the singer announces that she has ”something for the lollipop.”
But elsewhere, Kelis’ vocals are surprisingly anonymous, occupying rather than owning, for example, the pleasant, Cee-Lo co-penned ”Lil Star….” The album’s hands-down worst track is the jazzy ”Circus,” on which the woman also known as Mrs. Nas admits she’s ”not a rapper” prior to unleashing a series of rhymes that are clunky enough even before they get around to name-checking David Letterman.