Power in Vulnerability: Why Kelela’s debut album ‘Take Me Apart’ will be one of the best of the year
It’s been two years since we’ve heard from KELELA. From her 2013 mixtape, Cut 4 Me, to her 2015 EP, Hallucinogen, we’ve been hooked on her neo-soul sounds with futuristic sensibilities, and although we were sure she was working hard on new material, we still grew hungry for more. Thankfully, she answered our prayers recently with not only a new single and video shortly after that, but news of her debut album set for release this October titled Take Me Apart. ‘LMK’ was the song she chose to signify this next chapter, and it proved it was more than worth the wait.
Capitalising on her influences from the likes of Janet Jackson to Amel Larrieux, Kelela opens up on ‘LMK’, but on her own terms. Challenging the notion that women can’t just want to get laid with no strings attached, Kelela sings with all her might to prove, “It ain’t that deep either way/ All you gotta do is let me know.” She’s always been emotional and vulnerable, but there was something different with this release – it’s a more refined vulnerability, and there’s more power to her emotions than ever before.
Quickly coupled with a video that was described by director Andrew Thomas Huang (Björk collaborator) as “a video that showcases the multiplicity of who Kelela is and who she has the potential to be,” it was clear the direction she was heading in. Focussing on Kelela as she makes her way through various costumes and settings to ultimately reveal herself – her true self – she further promotes this power in herself and her feelings, and ultimately her vulnerability.
It’s a powerful release, and having been a loyal Kelela fan since Cut 4 Me, I can’t help but feel we’re on the precipice of a really spectacular release. Having bided her time to ensure everything was as she wanted it to be, she has set the tone for a record that’s all about love – love for herself, love for a partner, and beyond. All different kinds of love, from one night stands to throwing everything in the air and saying, “Fuck it.” As detailed in her recent interview with Pitchfork, if this record does anything, she hopes it gives people a chance to “slow the fuck down—but also to speed through the things we just don’t need to do over and over again. To create some solace for the feelings that you think you should not be having and also create urgency for you to get out of other feelings that you simply don’t need.”
From her previous works with the likes of ARCA and CLAMS CASINO, Kelela has seized the neo-soul influences of yesteryear, and thrust them into the now with a modern flair. Utilising her intoxicating vocals to their full extent, she partners with forward-thinking producers who let her shine. They work with her to make a bed of writhing, unpredictable beats to give her and her voice centre-stage, utilising a certain synergy to always keep the raw emotion firmly intact. Never over-produced or over-shadowed, this is once again on display in ‘LMK’, and is a theme that will undoubtedly continue in the rest of Take Me Apart. It’s something that’s often attempted but rarely executed to this extent, which is why Kelela has quickly become a frontrunner in this field; something to aspire to be or to create, and an example of just how good it can be when its pulled off.
In a time where the world seems insanely out of control, there’s power in tenderness and loving, which is exactly what Kelela is about, not just in her music but in her life. While the title, Take Me Apart, might suggest something more sinister, Kelela is urging us to turn our attentions inwards and love from the inside out. Criminally underrated, this is her time, and come October 6, everyone will know about it.
Take Me Apart is out October 6 via Warp Records/Inertia.
Words by Emma Jones