by Ayanna Jacobs-El
Signer and songwriter Kelela Mizanekristos, known mononymously as Kelela, released her much anticipated debut album Take Me Apart at the beginning of October. Since she released her 2013 debut mixtape Cut 4 Me, she has gained a loyal following and received praise from critics and artists such as Björk and Solange. I first learned about her from an NPR Music year-end playlist which included her song “Bank Head.” I really liked the 90s vibe and her silky, clear voice was lovely to listen to. I didn’t really check out any more of her music until I saw her perform live at Afropunk Fest Brooklyn 2016. She was a pretty mellow performer but still captivated the audience’s attention with her unique and emotional songs, fresh style, and gorgeous voice.
Something that I really like about Kelela’s music is how it blends a 90s R&B sound with elements of modern production and the Alternative R&B style that has become so prevalent in today’s music. In Take Me Apart, Kelela stays true to her signature sound while presenting stronger vocals and a cohesive and polished musical work. The album’s subject matter is about how she deals with life after ending a serious relationship and how the sparks that fly when finding a new flame.While there are a plethora of albums that center on this topic, Kelela manages to not fall into the typical boring clichés. She does so by presenting an interesting narrative throughout the course of the album and with production that conveys a myriad of emotions that perfectly support the lyrical content and mood.
The lead single from Take Me Apart was “LMK.” The song contrasts much of the other tracks on the album because of its club-friendly groove and heavy trap influence. It becomes an even better tune when you check out the amazing 90s inspired music video that goes along with it. For most of the video Kelela, forgoes her usual look by sporting different wigs in colorful “futuristic” rooms and corridors that are definitely a nod to the music videos for artists like TLC. The song’s message is about being free to just go out and have fun after experiencing heartbreak.
Another great song on the album is the opener “Frontline.” Kelela gets sassy by telling an ex-lover that she is leaving them because they are holding her back. She also makes it clear that she isn’t even a little bit sad or sorry about her decision. Her voice conveys the confidence that comes with realizing that you deserve better and that you have the choice to put an end to a bad relationship. The production perfectly captures this assertive mood with growling low synths, crisp drums, and a powerful chord progression.
A very emotional song on the album is “Better.” The introspective mood of the track is amplified by the only support being offered from a lone synth keyboard and having no drums or bass for most of the song. Kelela sings about how she and her ex are better people now that they are no longer in a relationship. Her vocal talent really shines in this song and her lush background vocal layers add gorgeous texture to the already riveting song.
Overall, Take Me Apart has a number of great songs but there were a few tracks that I didn’t particularly enjoy like “Enough.” I felt that production was a little too busy and distracting at times and the lyrical content wasn’t very captivating or memorable.
Kelela is currently on a multi-city tour in support of Take Me Apart. You can also follow her to be the first to know about her new music videos. I think that Kelela has the talent and refreshing creative direction that will allow her to be successful and beloved for years to come.
HAVE YOU LISTENED TO TAKE ME APART? LET US KNOW YOUR FAVORITE SONGS COMMENTS!