I went to Kelela’s sold-out concert in Durham last Friday night. Her debut album, “Take Me Apart,” was released on Oct. 6. She is redefining R&B with her electronic influence, and she's not afraid to delve into the themes of love and sex that are so intrinsic to R&B.
I remember the first time I heard Kelela. My sister, Claire, played “Bank Head” while we were getting ready to go out. We didn’t have a speaker so she played the song through the speaker on her iPhone 4. Let me tell you, I didn’t need a fancy speaker fall in love with her voice.
That was back in 2014, and last Friday night I got to see Kelela live at Motorco Music Hall in Durham. She performed songs from her debut album, “Take Me Apart,” which possesses the same sense of vulnerability and sensuousness as her previous EP, "Hallucinogen." She began the night with the song “Blue Light” and become enraptured in a cloud of blue smoke as she stood in the middle of the stage.
“I'm on my way right now. Promise I won't be long. Baby, keep the blue light on.”
I sang these lyrics at the end of the night when I approached City Bus Burritos and Tacos in Carrboro — the taco bus so famously known for their illuminating blue light, like a beacon of late night greasy food.
The song is about the feeling of not being able to resist the temptation of love. The album as a whole is about the transcendent power of love.
Her performance itself was nothing short of transcendent. When I first heard Kelela’s voice, I had never heard anything like it — her sound weaves between R&B and electronic and almost creates its own genre. Her sound is sometimes referred to as “Future R&B” and if Kelela is the future of R&B, I’m all for it.
One song that caught my attention was “Bluff.” Before the song she told the audience about her inspiration: she was tired of being lied to and called him out on it.
“I'm gonna prove you wrong. I'm calling your bluff,” she sang.
It’s the honesty and emotion of her lyrics that establish Kelela as a powerful artist. Her voice blew me away as well. I tried singing along but felt like I was doing a disservice to her. You know when the ad for a hamburger looks too perfect, almost plastic? And then you get it and it looks like it’s been buried underground for a couple months? Kelela’s performance was nothing like that. She exceeded my expectations. Her performance was not plastic; it was golden.
I’m serious. Look at her. She is shining.
Another song that left me speechless was "All The Way Down," a beautifully sexy song about intimacy. This is my favorite song by her, and the one I listen to most often.
Kelela’s music has become part of my own life’s soundtrack. I listen to “A Message” while getting over heartbreak, “All the Way Down,” when I’m feeling passionate about a new romance or “Go All Night” for when I want to … go all night.
But I’m single as hell now, so “Take Me Apart” fills all the voids in my life.
The last song she performed was “Bank Head” after a passionate call for an encore. It was the perfect, full circle ending to the show.
“It’s all I dreamed of, it can’t get started. Time goes by really slow and I need to let it out,” she sang.
Her songs deal with the rush of emotions associated with love and sex. She sings about what it means love and be loved, something that we can all relate to. If you want a sultry, new favorite artist who sings about sexual empowerment, listen to Kelela. And then “LMK” how you feel about her.