In the past three years, Kelis has, willingly or not, transformed herself from leftfield R&B singer to tabloid fodder thanks to a contentious divorce with husband Nas. While "Jerk Ribs" (originally titled "Call on Me"), her first new song in nearly three years, doesn't appear to address any of her personal drama, it's good to see Kelis explore a new musical direction thanks to producer Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio.
Sitek borrows rhythms from Ethio-jazz and Afrobeat, anchoring the track with funk horn blasts, whistles and a driving bass line that simultaneously feels both in Kelis's wheelhouse and unprecedented for the singer.
With glorious modern R&B oddballs like Solange and Nneka providing an alternative to their bedroom-oriented peers, Kelis' return—she recently signed a two-album deal with Sitek's Federal Prism label—is welcome and timely. To what extent her personal life will weave itself into her songwriting, if at all, remains to be seen.