The re-invention of an artist is always intriguing, because it’s fascinating to see how real life and culture can influence a career. I could write pages about this – just think of Madonna (the Queen of Re-Invention), Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, Jonna Lee, Kylie Minogue and Rihanna, examples of singers with completely different styles who, at a certain point of their careers – or all through their careers – have always found a way to change their music or their looks. In some cases, the change has come for good (Kylie and Rihanna really reached success after leaving their pop tart personas behind them); the same cannot be said for Britney, who is still striving to find her own voice and style, in my opinion. Jonna Lee and Christina Aguilera have recently made a 180° turn in their styles, with different results: Jonna is the magnetic, charming and disquieting woman behind the unbelievable project iamamiwhoami, Christina has just come back, after four years from Back to Basics, with a horrible song and a video which is honestly crap .
Another artist who has re-invented herself different times is Kelis: I’ve always admired her because she has proven to be talented, fearless when it comes to experimenting with her image and her sound, strong and consistent. Her album Tasty is one of my favourite ever, so you may imagine why I’m looking forward to listening to Flesh Tones, her fifth studio album. The first single, Acapella, was released on February 23rd: produced by David Guetta, the song has got a beautiful video, directed by Chris Cottam, Nicole Ehrlich and by the fashion photographer Rankin.
Kelis has always pursued her own artistic vision, no matter what, and this video proves her attitude towards her life and the world around her once again. The song is a reflection about solitude, music, the desire to find your own fulfilment in life, themes which are somehow present in the video. In the fictional dimension, Kelis is a bow-armed warrior/huntress who lives. There are references to different cultures here, but the first sequence shows her arms and legs painted with abstract motifs, which bring the Amazonian tattoos (I’m thinking of Sepultura’s amazing Roots Bloody Roots album cover) and the Rodarte version of them to my mind.
In the same scene, she’s wearing a feathered headpiece (a sort of crown?) and has a beaded collar necklace around her neck. These first scenes are shot in black and white.
The following scene sees Kelis surrounded by a blue light, sporting her trademark white locks styled in a braid and a weird rhinestone mask. She’s also wearing a nose ring, a piercing which screams 90s to me! I love it.
Again, she runs in the forest with a bow in her hands, ready to defend herself and her territory. In the following scenes, the same setting is shot in colour: in this case, we can see her fantastic make-up (by Kathy Yeung), a pale blue paint covering her eyes and forehead like a mask (did the make-up artist used MAC Otherworldly paint pot?).
Besides the beaded necklace, she’s also wearing beaded ornaments at the waist, too. The nails are amazing, painted in black, with application of black and red beads).
In another scene (very poetic), Kelis is literally floating amidst a sea of drops: she’s wearing a sequined jumsuit and flower-shaped beaded necklaces. What I find peculiar here is the black line painted on her face, emphasizing half of her face (from the forehead to the chin) and her nose. It reminds me of Henri Matisse’s paintings or of Amedeo Modigliani’s severe portraits.
Most of the video is shot outdoor, but there’s an indoor scene, the weakest of the video. In this case, the setting is a Bedouin tent, where she is staying with some wolves. Her body is painted in gold and she’s wearing a bikini which barely covers her.
She’s also wearing a spiked headband (so reminiscent of the ones seen on Givenchy Haute Couture fall/winter 2009 runway) and a sort of gold armour on her arm. I don’t like her make-up here, especially those hot pink spots on her temples, because they look like blood.
In the following scene, the yellow is again the dominant colour: she’s wearing a bright yellow panelled dress, some black strings tie her at the waist.
I think this scene is very intense, because the contrast between the bright colour of the dress and the black clouds in the background is really dramatic. Her hair is not braided, but loose and curly. What do you think of its colour? Do you dig the silver (long) hair or do you think it’s tasteless?
The latest scene is shot in a desert location. She is wearing a black tulle dress with the beaded ornament at the waist.
The first time I watched the video, at this point my heart literally melted. It’s so in your face, but at the same time it’s so subtle you hardly realize it: can you see the tiny feet peeking from the sides of her waist? This is what I call re-invention! Last year she became mother of her first child, Knight, and she allowed her life to enter her music: I think the song is dedicated to her son, who has brought music back in her life (the verse “Now a symphony’s the only song to sing” is clearly in opposition to “I was walking, was living, my melody was acapella”, that is singing without music).
In the very last shots, she turns her back to the camera and we can see the beautiful child she is carrying on her back. As a mother, I was immediately won over by the unexpected end of the video: I mean, not many artists have been capable of speaking of the changes in their lives when a child is born, and for this reason Kelis’ video is so interesting. She is not hiding her maternal status, she’s not pretending nothing has changed, but she’s taking advantage of it all to assert her power as a woman and as an artist.
 I must admit I was hoping to write something about Not Myself Tonight, but words fail when it comes to describe my feelings about this. I’ve been waiting four years for what I hoped would be a huge comeback, but nothing of what I hoped has arrived. I’m looking forward to listening to Bionic, because I want to know where all the stellar collaborations have gone. When it comes to the video, Christina is literally drowning in a sea of latex, but I can’t see irony and charisma (which she has, we all know she has them) anywhere. I’m extremely disappointed, because she has just proven she is worried to be left behind, but this is not the best way to come back, ripping off what Madonna, Beyonce and Lady GaGa have done before. She is for sure the best singer of her generation and I am wondering why she felt she needed this tasteless video to prove it (in reality, the video proves nothing, because it’s the worst she’s ever made, let alone the song).