Written by Samee Anibaba
“One look at you and I turn to dust.” Kelela almost whispers beautifully on her song Turn To Dust towards the end of her freshly released album Take Me Apart. And overall, the line truly captures the general feel of the album; the desire in her voice as she sings it, the way she practically has trouble getting the words out and really lets you understand all of the emotions she feels for this one person.
Take Me Apart is filled with moments like this. It becomes clear after a few listens that Kelela goes through some deep conflict over the way she should feel about someone and the power they have over her. Most of the songs are about moving on but some of them, like the spacey ballad (and title track) Take Me Apart, are about needing someone. Kelela contradicts herself emotionally over and over on this album when writing about this person but it all clicks on Turn To Dust – the passion ties it all together.
Kelela’s smooth, soothing voice is a serious highlight on this album – her voice is on a level with her contemporaries like Frank Ocean, Solange Knowles and Sampha. However, this isn’t your average R&B project. Kelela has always stood apart from the usual crop of R&B that has come out in recent years. Instead of taking the soulful route or even the dark and moody lane of singers like The Weeknd, Kelela brings back the vibes of the old classic 90s tunes from legends like TLC and Aaliyah, swapping the old school bass guitars and vibes for catchy and poppy melodies and wavy electronics.
However, even on her debut album Kelela never manages to sound like a throwback Thursday post – she sticks to forward thinking electronic beats that sound like they’re made for a chilled night at home just as much as they are for a club. Tunes like Waitin and Truth or Dare sound like they would fit perfectly on any R&B DJ set. Just like her huge track Rewind that propelled her to fame, there are plenty of tracks on Take Me Apart that could only be described as a banger while still sounding polished and catchy as hell. The opening track, Frontline, is a prime example of this – the chorus would fit in a playlist with an old school Aaliyah track but the production is on another level, going from laidback to a hard trap beat real quick. It’s a tune that will get stuck in your head once it really kicks in.
Another production highlight comes on Jupiter; the song features these wavey synths and while it at first seems simple, the beat stays detailed and fits in the background for Kelela’s voice to soar all over. It’s a beautiful ballad that, just like Turn To Dust, makes you feel the passion in her voice. It’s hard to put this album in any single place because of the variation in styles and sounds. Kelela packs a lot into any song without ever making it sound messy or like it doesn’t quite fit. Take one of the singles, Blue Light, as an example – the beat could almost be grime or dubstep with its hard, fast paced bassline rushing in and out of your ears. However, it never comes close to all that nightmarish dubstep singing that you used to hear on the radio.
If anything, the closest singer you could compare Kelela to is James Blake; they both stick to insane electronics and use their passionate voices to pretty much hit you in the heart. If you’re in your feelings this is an album for you. But even still, Kelela has a unique voice with power and range, backed by a unique sound that stands out on its own.
The singer closes the album out with a soothing tune on Altadena. It quietly closes the record on a beautiful and positive note, a clean and chill piano based song that instantly puts you in a relaxing vibe.
Overall, this album delivered. I was a fan of Kelela’s since her last EP and she managed to develop her raw, passionate sound into one that’s consistent and polished. It comes with brilliant, catchy singles that would bang in a club while following it up with the smooth R&B tunes that Kelela excels at all in one cohesive package.
You can find Take Me Apart on Apple Music, Spotify and listen to the lead single, LMK, below.