Within the past few years, Kelela has made her way into the music scene by associating herself with contemporaries like Solange Knowles and Bjork. Dark, but angelic, Kelela’s vocals prove to be hypnotic as well as energetic. Soft riffs and whispers counter well with themes of empowerment, but also nostalgia and defeat. In her most recent album Take Me Apart, Kelela continues the futuristic shift of R&B in tracks while intimately dabbling on themes of female empowerment, failed relationships, and passionate love.
The opening track “Frontline” breaks the ice with a breakup. The dancey bassline almost feels inappropriate to the subject matter. But, the heat from the bassline affirms this is a well-deserved split. However, the second track “Waitin” reveals that one’s feelings aren’t completely gone. Kelela describes it in an interview as when “You really think it’s over. You’re like ‘I’m good,’ but you see them again, and it sort of just … It f**ks you up.” Despite being both reflective and disheartening, “Waitin” is easily one of the most upbeat songs on the album. It has you reflecting on past flings in one minute and dancing your cares away in the next. Tracks like “Take Me Apart,”under all of the electronic nuances, evoke feelings of intimacy as Kelela describes moments of reconnection and reintroduction. Much like the metaphoric river, the song itself is murky, but never opaque. Within it lies a sense of urgency, but never rushing.
“LMK” is “for the girls” as Kelela tells her audience that they’re in control of whose bed they end up in and do not deserve to be involved in mind games. Softer, mellower tracks like “Enough,” “Jupiter,” and “Better” reveal a different side of the album as Kelela evokes feelings of doubt and inevitably pain as hard decisions must be faced in the end of a relationship.
Kelela’s album is truly a dream-like maze, mirroring the multiplicity of emotions one feels when it comes to love and heartbreak. It’s labyrinthian qualities allow for it to seep into ears and resonate with those who have never fully gotten over a love or still feel resentment. Fire and ice, intimacy and distance are all woven into the tracks to reflect the ranges of both music and emotion. The album offers the familiar side to R&B of intimacy, while at the same time suggesting a new wave of futuristic, electronic features that modernize R&B. Kelela straddles between various genres, refusing to set definitive traits as her harmonious coos and purrs allure listeners to stay for more. The title Take Me Apart is also an invitation to divide, examine and assemble the musical work itself in order to be able to do the same within.