Front Row

SXSW 2014: Kelis, 'Breakfast'

Listen To Kelis's Entire SXSW Concert
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/285775329/289953702" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Kelis hadn't taken the stage in America since 2010. But from her opening notes — in which she took on the standard "Feeling Good," as popularized by Nina Simone — the singer never shied away from the most lavish possible spectacle on stage at NPR Music's SXSW showcase, held at Stubb's BBQ. Backed by a 12-piece band, complete with horn section and backup singers, Kelis reintroduced herself to the world as a transformed artist whose sound looks forward and backward without losing its focus on the present.

The singer most frequently identified with the 2003 smash "Milkshake" — "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard" remains one of the most quotable lines in '00s pop — has evolved and experimented in the decade since. On Food, a new album due late next month, Kelis is fully recast as an inventive and unpredictable soul singer, aided significantly by the production work of Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio. In taking some of its songs to the stage Wednesday night, she presided over a full-fledged soul revue with the confidence and gravitas of a decorated soul veteran.

Still, this phase of Kelis' career is about liberation and rebirth rather than a desire to escape past successes; the fizzy playfulness of old has given way to an audacious intensity. Naturally, past hits like "Milkshake" and 2010's "Acapella" make memorably grandiose appearances here. But, like the singer herself, they're reinvented, buoyed by the graceful gravity of a star reborn.

Audio Set List
  • "Feeling Good"
  • "Breakfast"
  • "Millionaire"
  • "Cobbler"
  • "Feeling Good" (excerpt)
  • "Trick Me"
  • "Friday Fish Fry"
  • "Forever Be"
  • "Milkshake"
  • "Jerk Ribs"
  • "Acapella"
  • "Feeling Good" (excerpt)
  • "Rumble"
Credits

Producers: Saidah Blount, Mito Habe-Evans, Robin Hilton; Technical Director: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Becky Harlan, Eric Helton, Olivia Merrion; Video Director: A.J. Wilhelm; Audio: Timothy Powell/Metro Mobile, Josh Rogosin; Production Assistants: Lizzie Chen, Kiana Fitzgerlad, Christopher Parks, Mary Pryor; Special Thanks: SXSW, Stubb's BBQ; Executive Producer: Anya Grundman

[+] read more[-] less

More From R&B/Soul

PJ in a scene from her new video for the song "Gangster." Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

All Songs TV

First Watch: PJ, 'Gangster'

A quiet fixture of the R&B/hip-hop scene comes into her own with a hat-tip to Alanis Morissette.

The duo OSHUN, from the video for "Protect Your Self" Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

All Songs TV

First Watch: OSHUN, 'Protect Your Self'

The neo-soul and hip-hop duo wages a war against superficiality that spares no one.

Charles Bradley showed us why he's called the "Screaming Eagle of Soul." Adam Kissick for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Adam Kissick for NPR

Front Row

Charles Bradley, Live In Concert: SXSW 2016

Several music fans at SXSW walked away from our showcase claiming this was the concert of the night. Watch to find out why.

Back To Top