The first time I heard Kelela on the radio, I started making ululations in the car.
I always get excited when a fellow Habesha makes a splash in the music industry. There's this certain feeling of affection triggered when my people are represented in the media. And Take Me Apart, an experimental blend of musical styles from the past and present, proves Kelela deserves every ounce of idolization I have for her.
It's pretty hard to compare Kelela's sound to anyone else's on the radio. She manages to remain so enigmatic over the course of the 14-track release that she never once bored me; the album's themes are relatable, yet clearly very personal. On "LMK," she croons "It ain't that deep, either way/ No one's tryna settle down/ All you gotta do is let me know," expressing a desire for a casual relationship with communication, rather than exclusivity.
Kelela dabbled in indie and progressive metal before solidifying her current sound. Perhaps that's why Take Me Apart succeeds in its fusing of R&B, electronica and trap — demonstrating Kelela's knack for taking apart and amplifying elements from different genres.
Kelela's sweet voice compliments the highly emotive, sometimes confrontational lyrics she belts for much of the album.
"Frontline," demonstrates the no-bullshit attitude that keeps the singer exciting. She sings, "Hold up, wait, you're fucking with my groove" and later, "Cry and talk about it, baby, but it ain't no use/ I ain't gonna sit here with your blues." Empowering and blunt, the lyrics on this release capture the inner thoughts we all experience when feeling jaded because of a lover.
The breathy, synth-heavy style on this album is reminiscent of Janet Jackson's style and the new wave of hypnotic dance music that exploded in the 1990s. But Kelela distinguishes herself as a singer as she layers both her vocals and beats to create a unique mix on each song, weaving together sounds of the past, present and future.
While every song is distinct, there is still a trend in the album. Kelela uses her impressive melisma to encapsulate listeners in a song's first few moments, before speeding up the tempo for a funky breakdown.
"Blue Light" shows a different side of the singer, as Kelela's reliance on Auto-Tune is more apparent. She truly doesn't need it though — she can sometimes goes outside her sweet mezzo soprano range when singing a cappella and demonstrates significant vocal dexterity, proving to be the album's most valuable instrument.
At 34, Kelela has finally left a dent in the music industry with a monumental debut album. As impressive as this release was, there's still room to grow, and if Kelela's next release shows as much improvement from her EP as Take Me Apart did, she could be a serious contender for pop music's next big thing.