We chatted to the ‘Milkshake’ singer ahead of her Australian tour, where she joins other 2000s R’N’B greats.
“I love that I’m part of an era when music was great”
IN 2003 THE world was speculating wildly over what exactly was in Kelis’s milkshake that intoxicated men and compelled them into her ‘yard’. Over a decade later the dairy-based euphemism is still a tantalising mystery, and the 38-year-old megastar is as popular as ever. Her other huge hits, ‘Trick Me’, ‘Bossy’ and ‘Millionaire’, still swill around the airwaves and she’s been busy since that golden musical time capsule filling in her hours with feats like training to be a professional chef, hosting UK choral talent show Pitch Battle and raising sons Shepherd and Knight. Speaking over the phone from her living room, Kelis reflects on the staying power of her output and that of her tour mates, Craig David, Ne-yo, Kelly Rowland, En Vogue, Sean Paul, Mario, Christina Milian, Monifah and Fatman Scoop. “I love the fact that I am part of an era where music was great, when it was really fun, and we still have fun,” she says. “Everyone on tour, for the most part, is still really relevant and still really busy and still really cool.”
Kelis herself will be pretty chuffed to be hanging out with some of her idols. “Growing up, En Vogue, for example, was a huge one. I just thought they were so glamorous and beautiful and that they really represented something different than what we had seen before.” She admires the ‘Free Your Mind’ girl group as much as she does Whitney Houston, but when asked about any contemporary women of R’N’B she might align with, she is quick to remind us of a) how deeply un-feminist that question is and b) how her taste in artists needn’t be informed by gender or modernity at all. “I don’t ever sit around and think, ‘Oh I’m going to listen to this artist because it’s a woman.’ I’m just like, ‘Oh I love this song.’ Everything else is kind of secondary.”
Kelis has another reason to be excited about the Australian tour: revisiting her favourite local restaurants. It’s widely known that during a breather between albums she trained at Le Cordon Bleu, the famous culinary institute in France. She has released both a cookbook, My Life on a Plate, and a line of barbecue and jerk sauces. The title of her most recent album, Food, from 2014, offers another hint about where her preoccupation lies. “I always do a quick little bit of research to see what’s new and exciting and a mustsee in the local food scene. I’m down to try the high-end and then the not-high-end. I don’t care. I like finding the good little holes in the wall all over the world.” Does she get a chance, as a recognisable megastar, to wander the streets and find said holes in the wall? “Yeah, I do actually. I remember having some really good Indian food last time I was out there. I went with a few of my band and we just sort of hung out. I remember the food being really good. But, yeah, it was Valentine’s Day, so everything was all beefed out and overwhelmingly non-romantic.”