Some young, enterprising marketing exec over at Kelis’s record company has apparently hatched a scheme to capitalize on Daniel Day-Lewis’s Oscar win for There Will Be Blood. How else to explain the release of a greatest hits album for the “Milkshake” singer when she’s only released three albums in the U.S. and has no more than two or three bona fide hits to her name?
Threats of pilfering frothy iced beverages in bloody bowling alleys aside, there’s plenty to justify the existence of The Hits. The album’s first track is, in fact, not “Milkshake,” but “Caught Out There,” a song that proves why Kelis’s legacy should extend beyond simply bringing the boys to the yard. No, she wasn’t “the first girl to scream on a track,” as she claims on 2006’s “Bossy,” but her debut single, released when she was a 19-year-old with pink eyebrows, not only became a girl-power anthem thanks to its livid hook and indignant lyrics, but helped announced the Neptunes as one of the premier superstar production teams of 21st-century pop music.
The rock edge of “Caught Out There” is reprised on later tracks like “Young Fresh ‘N’ New” (the lead single from her sophomore album, previously unavailable in the U.S.) and N.E.R.D.‘s “Truth or Dare,” but it’s the tragic and poetic ballad “Get Along with You,” in which Kelis renounces worldly things, that is the Neptunes’ finest moment. Kelis’s collaborations with other artists and producers are equally strong, represented here by songs like the racy, Rockwilder-produced “In Public”; the track features Kelis’s husband Nas, who isn’t quite hip-hop’s equivalent of Shakespeare but offers one of the album’s most memorable lyrics: “The pussy or the mouth, that is the question,” rivaled only by Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “I don’t have no trouble with you fucking me, but I have a little problem with you not fucking me” on “Got Your Money.”
Of course, greatest hits packages are almost always imperfect, and though it’s nice to see Richard X’s “Finest Dreams” (a reinterpolation of S.O.S. Band’s 1986 hit “The Finest”), missing is Kelis’s other collaboration with Nas, “Blindfold Me,” and Timo Mass’s ‘50s sci-fi club track “Help Me.” Minor flaws for an album that will be a valuable item for completists as well as more causal fans who’ve been waiting for a reason to sell their Kaleidoscope and Tasty CDs on eBay.