Kelis — “Milkshake”

Released: 10.23.03

Peak: #3

Look, I never said that I hated the Neptunes. I just make them work for my love, hit by hit. Also, I’m more susceptible to those tracks that veer away from their standard template. With its shuffling dancehall beat, its broadly slathered background of electrosquelches, and that amazing little bell, “Milkshake” is Pharrell and Hugo at their leftest-field. Not that it would matter without Kelis, who instigates a playground taunt about her dairy jugs and never once sounds anything less than a grown woman.

Kelis entered the decade with two of 1999’s finest choruses under her belt: “Hey, Dirty, baby I got your money” and “I HATE YOU SO MUCH RIGHT NOW!” But whether imitating ODB’s backup hoe or shouting a catchphrase that was not a song title (“Caught Out There,” fyi), Kelis seemed liked the kind of R&B weirdo that pop had constricted by 2003 too much to let in. Her second album, Wanderland, was never even released in the U.S. Fortunately, the Neptunes doted upon her as their golden girl, and the emergence of Nas and Kelis as Bizarro World Jay-Z and Beyonce probably didn’t hurt none.

Her post-Neptunes career as a free agent has offered some mild highs. The Bangladesh track “Bossy,” which called out 50 Cent, defiantly fights her man’s fights. (“That’s right, I’m the one who’s tattooed on his arm.”) And on Polow da Don’s “Blindfold Me,” she and Nas offer up more kink than any J&B duet is likely to. Not crazy about “Acapella,” though I suppose David Guetta and will.i.am offer as safe a harbor as any these days.

But “Milkshake” endures, because “Milkshake” irritates all the right people. By which I mean, of course, “not me.” Someone else might say, for instance, that “Hollaback Girl” irritates all the right people. But that can’t be true, because Gwen Stefani bugs me the fuck out. And I am not the right people. Q.E.D.

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