March 13, 2014


Kelis Triumphantly Returns in SXSW Blowout

Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images
Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images

It has been four years since Kelis' last U.S. performance, and during her set at NPR's opening night showcase at SXSW, she accomplished something impressive: She made herself completely anew. On more than a few occasions I overheard people standing around the crowded venue mispronouncing her name and misremembering her breakout single, "Milkshake." From the stage, it seemed like she couldn't care less.

The starlet opened with a cover of "Feelin' Good," sounding surprisingly fresh and sporting a gorgeous caftan, drawing a few people to make comparisons to M.I.A. If the two have anything in common, it's their unique brand of effortless cool, which is the stuff of jealousy.

Kelis is a fighter, having to battle not just the divorce from her "Milkshake" image, but the very public divorce from hip hop legend Nas. When Nas puts your wedding dress on the cover of his 2012 record Life is Good, how do you leave your past in the dust?

The first step is to avoid calling it a comeback: Kelis never went anywhere, we just weren't paying attention.

Kelis did perform her fan favorite, "Milkshake," but as casually as possible. It was her third-to-last track; it was in no way her safety blanket. That didn't stop attendees from storming forward to scream the words. Still, if there was any fear of her becoming a one-trick pony, she's proved that won't be the case.

Kelis' highly anticipated follow-up album Food drops later this month. In support of the release, she has also curated a SXSW food truck -- jerk ribs and duck sliders and coleslaw -- for festival-goers hungry for more. It might sound cheesy, but in 2014, Kelis makes getting a 12am milkshake sound pretty damn good.