Flesh Tone

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This article is about the Kelis album. For the skin tone, see Human skin color.
Flesh Tone
Studio album by Kelis
Released May 14, 2010 (2010-05-14)
Recorded 2009–10
Length 37:37
Kelis chronology
Kelis Was Here
Flesh Tone
Singles from Flesh Tone
  1. "Acapella"
    Released: February 16, 2010 (2010-02-16)
  2. "4th of July (Fireworks)"
    Released: June 8, 2010 (2010-06-08)
  3. "Scream"
    Released: October 10, 2010 (2010-10-10)
  4. "Brave"
    Released: January 6, 2011 (2011-01-06)

Flesh Tone is the fifth studio album by American recording artist Kelis,[2] first released on May 14, 2010.[3] Recorded while the singer was an unsigned artist and while pregnant with her first child, the record is an ode to motherhood and is a distinct departure from the urban sound of her previous album, Kelis Was Here. Production for the songs comes courtesy of David Guetta, Boys Noize, Jean Baptiste and Benny Benassi amongst others.

Flesh Tone was described as a pop album but adopts electropop, synthpop, house and dancehall elements to form a "euphoric dance album" which tributes the birth of Kelis' son. The record serves as her debut with Interscope Records under the will.i.am music brand. Clocking in at just over 37 minutes, contemporary critics praised the album for being cohesive as well as refreshing and lean. "Acapella" was released as the album's lead single and topped the U.S. Dance/Club Songs and UK Dance charts as well as peaking at top-ten on mainstream single charts in Europe. "4th of July (Fireworks)" served as the second single reaching top five on the U.S. Dance/Club Chart and number six in the UK Dance Chart. The album was listed at number fifty-three on NME‍ '​s list of the "Top 75 Albums of 2010".[4]


In late 2007 it was revealed that Kelis and Jive Records had parted ways following the lack of commercial success with Kelis Was Here in the United States.[5] Kelis was signed to Pharrell Williams' record label Star Trak which was originally distributed by Virgin Records but following mergers it was bought by Arista Records and subsequently Kelis was moved to Jive Records. Her manager, Jeff Rhaban explained that "It was a case of being in the ever-shrinking world of the record industry and finding herself on a label she wasn’t signed to and without a champion".[5] It wasn't until two years later that Kelis began working on the album as an unsigned artist. She recorded much of the songs at her Los Angeles home, in her personal recording studio, in her garage:[6] Casa De Kelis. Finishing touches were added at Jeepney Studios.[7] Soon after parting ways with Jive, the singer hinted that she would work with Cee-Lo on releasing a pop music album.[5]

In December 2009 Kelis released a statement in which she confirmed media reports that she been working with will.i.am on new music and a record deal. She said she was happy to be part of the Interscope family and was looking forward to putting out new music as well as touring for fans who appreciated real music.[8] She also revealed that for label selection she took a completed album to key labels she thought would be interested in the project and understand its needs. According to the artist there was a lot of interest.[9] When asked why she chose will.i.am's music label Kelis said "I think that he’s brilliant. As far as this generation goes, there's not a single song that you can bring up to him or a reference or an artist or an era of music that he is not privy to or that he doesn't understand. He's like a musical encyclopedia. It makes it fun. He's not afraid to push the limits and kinda go further than everyone else and that's exciting. He still seems to be having fun doing it and that's what it's all about."[9] will.i.am. replied: "Kelis represents the kind of edge that pushes all of us not just musically but stylistically as well. She has always opened new doors for her audience and we're ready to walk through this next one with her."[8]

According to Billboard magazine, who reviewed the upcoming album in January 2010, the project will contain eight songs[10] although Kelis would later go on to confirm that the final mastered version of the album actually contains nine songs.[11] The review also spoke of individual songs: "Acapella", helmed by David Guetta, is a tribute to her son; "4th of July", which was produced by DJ Ammo; "Kids", which is inspired by gay club goers and "Carefree American", which is an acoustic-guitar driven number. She also entered the studio with her label boss DJ will.i.am to produce recordings for the album[10] and according to the second official press release one of his records will appear on the album.[12] Guetta also contributed another song, "Scream" to the album.[13] It was also reported that the singer worked with British electropop duo La Roux.[2] The songs "Alive" (produced by Diplo)[10] and "Carefree American" produced by Jean Baptiste[14] are not included on the main standard pressings of the album. Additionally iTunes confirmed that the albums contains segues.[15] On March 11, 2010 it was revealed that Kelis was working with British portrait and fashion photographer John "Rankin" Waddell. Rankin has helped fellow British director Chris Cottam to produce the video for the album's lead single, "Acapella" as well as helming the photoshoot for the album's imagery and cover.[2] Kelis described the album is "something you can get sweaty to" which reflects the "European Club-Scene" sound the album has.[16]


The first song on the album is titled "Intro" which Kelis uses to announce "she's gone italo disco". The song has an electrofunk production and bears resemblance to some of David Bowie's early work.[17] "Scream" is an synthpop[17] and electro-dance[18] song with electro-rap[1] and house music[19] elements. It was written by Kelis, Jean Baptiste, David Guetta and Roman de Garcez. The production contains a "blade of blues melody [that] slices in atop a rinky-dink sampled piano." It also has "lots of sonic confusingness" as the "song evaporates in the middle ... then reassembles and feeds into a staccato spoken-word electroclash midsection."[17] Many of the critics stated how the song has split sections, sometimes like "a beat-free beach house piano-based meditation"[18][19] whilst at other times, sounding like "haughty electroclash ingenue".[18] The verses are mainly house music whilst the choruses are electronica and have rap music-stylings.[1] The BBC gave 'Acapella' song a great review and during this described the song being "swept up in a new love, and transformed by the giddy thrill to such a degree that everything that happened before seems drab and gray by comparison". They then added that the track had themes of artist Donna Summer. They added that the track had "astonishing synth-disco amazingness from the '70s".[20] The song was written and produced with producer David Guetta and it follows themes of Electronic music and has influences from such artist as; Timo Maas, Basement Jaxx, Björk, and the Crookers.[21]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (77/100)[22]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[23]
Entertainment Weekly (B+)[24]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[25]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[26]
NME (8/10)[17]
Pitchfork Media (7.2/10)[18]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[27]
Slant Magazine 3/5 stars[28]
Spin (8/10)[29]
The Village Voice (favorable)[30]

Flesh Tone was well received by contemporary critics who, on average, awarded the album 77 out of 100 (based on 16 reviews) according to review aggregator site, Metacritic.[22] According to the site, many critics responded favorably toward the album's "club-friendly sound" and "ability to sample a wide range of dance music styles while still retaining Kelis’ personality and vision".[31] Allmusic writer Andy Kellman gave it 4 out of 5 stars and stated "Flesh Tone is a headlong dive into sleek dance-pop ... [yet] it is much more personal than any of her past releases", and praised the album's arrangement, stating that "the setup works because the songs are conjoined and dynamically ordered ... Flesh Tone remains a stylistic outlier, the disc will always be a bright standout in Kelis' discography."[23] Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian shared a similar sentiment and wrote "As with her previous records, her fifth studio album doesn't sound like anyone else [its] stamped with her unique take on things. Flesh Tone may break no new musical ground, but it's very good."[25] Spin‍ '​s Jessica Hopper wrote that Kelis "goes full-tilt house diva" and commended her "husky-voiced, Oprah-esque survivor aphorisms".[29] Sarah Bee of BBC Online called it a "sensual and exhilarating album" and praised Kelis's performance, stating "Kelis has always been a strong character and a brave musician – this is what carries the album and assures your ears that it’s no out-of-element flounder ... [Her] honey-husky voice slips easily into the hypnotic repetitions of dance music vocalisation."[19] Digital Spy's Nick Levine gave the album 4 out of 5 stars and stated "Flesh Tone grabs your attention straight away and refuses to let go ... [she] has reinvented herself as a Europoppy dance diva ... It works, and it works wonderfully, because she's committed herself unequivocally [to] a ballad-free, constantly-throbbing bop-til-you-drop dance record joined together by some intriguing segue pieces. [It's a] terrific club-pop record on a humongous high - and an all-natural one at that."[1]

However, some critics viewed the album's sound as unoriginal and dated.[31] Johnny Dee of Virgin Media said "Flesh Tone marks a thrilling comeback ... The only complaint is that at 9 tracks it feels a little light."[32] Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquenmani was more critical of Kelis' direction towards dance music, stating "Her new album, Flesh Tone, sounds dated in the worst kind of way—that is, not enough to sound retro-cool, but enough to sound totally uncool. It helps that the album ... segued together with interludes that are more interesting than the actual songs. Flesh Tone should sound desperate, but it often sounds inspired instead. Kelis seems electrified by her new genre shift, and the result is an album that's one of her most consistent to date."[28] Kaya Burgess of The Times pointed out that 'Acapella' and 'Home' are the only tracks which "stand out from an otherwise rather copy-and-paste collection of electronic numbers".[33] Los Angeles Times writer Magaret Wappler expressed that Kelis has managed to "make a spirited but disciplined set of classic Euro-club bangers. Sometimes they're darkly contemplative, slipping into trance; other times they nearly rip at the seams ... it's clear that Kelis has carved out a new niche for herself, dancing in front of the turntables till the lights come on, if they dare."[26] Sam Richards of Uncut complimented its fusion of "R&B sass to thumping club beats" and stated "‍ '​most everything Kelis touches drips with class".[34] Gavin Haynes of NME felt that "Flesh Tone has already filled out an application form for pop record of the year" and stated "Her ability to appear unimpeachably cool hasn’t wavered either. But these are as nothing. What’s important here is simply her direction: a genuinely innovative bearing that breaks new ground for pop without sounding any less pop for it. Kelis. Genius. Pop auteur."[17]

Commercial response[edit]

In the United States, Flesh Tone opened at number forty-eight with 7,800 copies sold. These sales was considered a huge disappointment on the Billboard 200 in compared to her previous albums.[35]


"Acapella" was released on February 23, 2010 as the album's first single.[36] It topped the U.S.Hot Dance Club Songs chart[37] In the United Kingdom the song made its debut at number five on the UK Singles Charts [38] and number one on the UK Dance Singles.[39] In Ireland it made its debut at number 30 and by its fifth week had peaked at number seventeen.[40] "4th of July (Fireworks)" was released on June 8 in the U.S. as the second single[41][42] and on July 5, 2010 in the UK.[43] It debuted at number thirty-nine on the UK Dance Singles chart following strong digital sales.[44] Additionally on May 28, 2010 the song was added to UK urban music radio's B playlist.[45] On June 9, 2010 the song was added the C-Playlist on UK Mainstream's Radio 1.[46] "4th of July" peaked at number four on the U.S. Hot Dance/Club Songs chart but in the UK it peaked at number six on the Dance chart and thirty-two on the main singles chart.

"Scream", produced by David Guetta, is the third single released from the album. Its release will coincide with the European Leg of Kelis' All Hearts tour.[47] It was to be released on October 4, 2010[48] in the UK, however was pushed back a week to October 10, 2010. A music video for the song was released on September 28, 2010[49] On October 5, 2010, Kelis released a 3D version of her Scream music video. This version can be found on her official website.[50] "Brave" is served as the album's fourth single, according to Kelis.[51] The video was released on 20 November 2010.[52] The video shows a still camera of Kelis, wearing a white top with a white background behind her with the camera moving while a large beat is being played. Kelis has also re-recorded the track in 'simlish' for video game The Sims 3: Late Night.[53] The single was released on January 9, 2011 in the UK.[54]


Kelis performing during her tour with Robyn

On February 26, 2010 Kelis officially premiered the lead single "Acapella" at Eva Longoria's Las Vegas nightclub[55] as well as performing three new songs from the album.[56] At the end of March 2010 the promotional tour kicked off starting with an appearance at the Ultra Music Festival during the Winter Music Conference in Miami, Florida where she performed "Acapella" as well as "Spaceship".[57][58] The latter is a collaboration with Benny Benassi and apl.de.ap for Benassi's upcoming album. Additionally she performed "Acapella" for the first time on live TV on April 6, 2010 on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.[59] In the United Kingdom, Kelis promoted the album on GMTV, Later with Jools Holland, Live Lounge and debuted "4th of July" as a single on T4.[60][61] She is also scheduled to perform at Isle of MTV Malta Special on June 30.[62]

On June 18, Kelis will perform "4th of July" (the second single from the album) on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Tavis Smiley Show. Kelis performed on The Today Show and 106 and Park on July 6, the album's release date. She is also scheduled to appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on July 13.[63][64] Kelis was honored and performed at Elle Magazine's "Women in Music" at the Highline Ballroom in New York City on June 9, 2010.[65] Kelis announced via her Twitter account that herself and Swedish singer Robyn were co-headlining a tour in the U.S. called All Hearts.[66]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Intro"   Kelis, Burns, Jean Baptiste Burns 3:29
2. "22nd Century"   Kelis, Baptiste, Alex Ridha, Andreas Meid, Ian O'Brien Docker Boys Noize 4:54
3. "4th of July (Fireworks)"   Kelis, Baptiste, Damien Leroy, Jamie Munson, Anthony Burns, Vanessa Fischer, Ronald Morris, Jeff Scheven DJ Ammo 5:39
4. "Home"   Kelis, Baptiste, Nick Marsh Free School 4:02
5. "Acapella"   Kelis, David Guetta, Fred Riesterer, Baptiste, Makeba Riddick David Guetta, Fred Riesterer* 4:27
6. "Scream"   Kelis, Guetta, Baptiste, Roman de Garcez David Guetta, El Tocadisco* 3:29
7. "Emancipate"   Kelis, Baptiste, Benny Benassi, Alle Benassi Alle Benassi, Benny Benassi 4:25
8. "Brave"   Kelis, James Fauntleroy, will.i.am, Baptiste Alle Benassi, Benny Benassi, will.i.am* 3:31
9. "Song for the Baby"   Kelis, Baptiste, Michael McHenry, Printz Boards Free School 3:41
Total length:


Taken from Flesh Tone album booklet.[69]

Performance credits
Image and vision
Technical credits


The album debuted at number forty-eight in the United States with first-week sales of 8,000 copies and overall sales of 53,000 copies sold.[70]

Chart (2010) Peak
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[71] 64
Dutch Albums Chart[72] 81
French Albums Chart[73] 132
German Albums Chart[74] 61
Greek International Albums Chart[75] 12
Irish Albums Chart[76] 54
Swiss Albums Chart[77] 49
UK Albums Chart[78] 46
UK R&B Albums Chart[79] 6
US Billboard 200[70] 48
US Dance/Electronic Albums[80] 5

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label
Poland May 14, 2010 Universal Music
United Kingdom[81] May 17, 2010 Polydor Records
Worldwide[16] Universal Music
Japan[82] May 19, 2010
Germany[83] May 28, 2010
United States[16] July 6, 2010 will.i.am music, Interscope Records
Canada[12] Universal Music
New Zealand[85]


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External links[edit]