Tasty is the third studio album by American recording artist Kelis, released on December 9, 2003 by Star Trak Entertainment and Arista Records. Considered the breakthrough of Kelis' career, she was able to expand her success across Europe while reaching new markets in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Unlike her previous albums, Tasty opted for a more pop-yet-alternative-oriented tune which led to a greater success outside Europe with "Milkshake" being the first single from Kelis to receive critical acclaim in the US and a peak position of number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
Both the album and its singles immediately found success in Europe. The album's second single, "Trick Me", proved successful on radio and music video channels in Europe, and went to the top ten in many European countries during mid-2004. However, the song did not enjoy success in America, where its music video was not released because her US label Arista Records folded at the same time that Tasty was released. Kelis was then transferred to Jive Records, who were not interested in continuing with the album.
This album is Kelis' second to bear the Parental Advisory label (the first being her 1999 debut album Kaleidoscope); as noted on the Parental Advisory sticker attached to the jewel case, an edited version was also available. However, there were only two small changes made to the edited version. A sexual reference was cut out of the song "Trick Me", and Kelis' hidden outro appended to the end of "Marathon" on the explicit version is omitted. In the outro she says "Okay, now, swallow". On the album's Parental Advisory warning, there is note of strong sexual content. Ironically enough, on the edited version, the sexually explicit song "In Public" remains unchanged and is the same version as that on the explicit version. Other explicit songs that have not been modified on the edited version are "Flashback", "Millionaire", and "Stick Up".
The success of Tasty was most obvious in the United Kingdom, where the four singles from the album were released. After "Milkshake" and "Trick Me" came "Millionaire" and "In Public". Her European label, Virgin Records, who she had been with since the start of her career there, decided to persist with the album. Due to her various splits with US labels, promotion for both of her previous projects Kaleidoscope and Wanderland were ended prematurely, just as she was finally breaking through in the UK. Virgin UK did not want her to lose the fan base that she was building up yet again by ending promotion early, because of the US and other territories deciding not to continue with the album. This paid off and Kelis finally cemented her UK status, with four top twenty hits from the album (including three top three hits) and Tasty going platinum there.
Tasty received very positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 80, based on 18 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". Andy Kellman of Allmusic gave the album four-and-a-half out of five stars and stated, "Despite all the new assistance, Tasty is formatted much like Kaleidoscope and Wanderland, constantly swinging back and forth between bouncy pop and laid-back (not throwback) soul."Rolling Stone's Ernest Hardy referred to Tasty as Kelis' best work, writing it is "lighter and more cohesive than her ill-fated second album, 2001's Wanderland, more focused and mature than her 2000 debut, Kaleidoscope. Take away the Dallas Austin-produced tracks [...], two Neptunes rock attempts and 'Milkshake,' and you have a solid R&B album, one that's thickly speckled with hip-hop influences and nods to early Prince and Eighties Latin freestyle music." Hardy also cited her "raggedly sexy singing" on the song "Millionaire" as "her best performance on the album". Neil Drumming of Entertainment Weekly graded the album A−, calling it "Kelis' past—big beats, out-there imagery, and sex appeal—refined" and commenting that "much of the beauty of Tasty is in witnessing Kelis rise to the challenge of working with multiple imaginative maestros."
In a review for the NME, Tony Naylor viewed the album as "[f]ar more complete than Wanderland or Kaleidoscope", adding that "such vacuum-packed musical freshness is maintained throughout." Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian, rating the album four out of five stars, described Kelis as a "parallel universe Beyoncé" and expressed that she "exploits her husky croon like never before, pouring it over lascivious double entendre [...] and, well, lascivious single entrendre [...] The likes of the Neptunes, Dallas Austin and OutKast's Andre 3000 weigh in with assorted flavours of pre- and post-coital soul, sighing to a close with Raphael Saadiq's Massive Attack-echoing 'Marathon'."The Independent noted that she "certainly takes the sexual initiative in several songs", but "[m]ostly, though, Kelis keeps a watchful eye on her affections in songs such as 'Protect My Heart' and 'Trick Me', and has developed a decidedly jaundiced view of hip hop's lop-sided sexual politics, judging by 'Keep It Down'." Joseph Patel of Blender commented that Kelis is "as good playing a hair-twisting, gum-popping tart on 'Sugar Honey Iced Tea' as an all-grown-up cock-blocker on the crackling funk ditty 'Trick Me.'"Slant Magazine reviewer Sal Cinquemani felt that few of the tracks on the album are "as immediately thirst-quenching as the insta-classic lead single 'Milkshake'", and Pitchfork Media's Scott Plagenhoef opined that Tasty is "far from all doom-and-gloom". Adam Webb of Yahoo! Music believed that the album is "not as far out wild as Kaleidoscope but it is a consistently inventive and brilliant record." Steve Jones of USA Today gave the album three stars out of four and said, "guests and idiosyncrasies aside, her honeyed voice is the most important ingredient. It's sweet enough to make you wonder, 'Did she just say that?' No one could ever accuse her of being bland."
The albums lead single "Milkshake" was released August 25, 2003. The song peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in December, 2003, becoming Kelis' best charting single in the country to this day. The song achieved commercial success internationally, as it topped the chart in Ireland, and peaked inside the top three in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. "Milkshake" was certified gold in the United States, where it has sold 883,000 paid downloads. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2004.