We’ve said it again and again: Kelela is the spiritual successor to all of R&B superstars past. There is an awe-inspiring quality to her sound, a lightness of touch that combats the prevalent darkness of her production. There’s a bright soul here, one that fuses the different facets of personality for a rounded portrait on Take Me Apart.
It is, without doubt, the R&B record of the year. Collaborators may be big in name (Arca, The xx‘s Romy Madley Croft, Boots, Ariel Rechtshaid, among others) but they only add small shades to what is very obviously Kelela’s show all the way. Waitin further explores the melodic structure she set up on the Hallucinogen EP, but it gives way to stunning, viscous flurry of beats on the title track that ensures we’re aware this ain’t no retread.
Vocally, Kelela takes directions that are never predictable but still feel wholly natural in her world. She navigates a more celestial plane on Enough, bringing a sense of cinematic scale and futuristic drama while we remain in stunned, hypnotised silence. She pares things down on the romanticised flutter of Jupiter. And she channels the most classic vibes on S.O.S. while never sounding anything other than original.
It’s a hard act to manage – especially with the weight of expectation – but Kelela simply astounds at every turn, and with how easy she makes everything look. There’s not a moment of boredom here, not a single song that doesn’t fit or hold your gaze even as we hit the final leg of Onanon and the gentle acceptance of Altadena. Kelela has deconstructed her sense of self to make a larger whole, and she’s given us a glorious window into this confessional. To be honest, it’s one of those rare music occasions that feels like an absolute privilege.