The girl who delivered one of the most interesting hooks in pop music history (“I hate you so much right now”) returns in stellar form on her second outing Wanderland.

Paul Wong
Two stars.

“Young, Fresh ‘N New” is definitely what describes the sound and style of the album. Fresh with imaginative subject matter and anew with a leftfield approach of tackling a pop song, Wanderland shines like a revolving diamond: Morphing into one vivid musical fantasy after another.

The sophomore jinx is never a term that dares to frighten this record. Kelis pens a majority of the album’s material and displays a surprising array of charisma and vocal growth. Already a household name overseas, the Harlem-bred R&B-er has yet to receive the same love stateside. Though widely remembered for her first single “Caught Out There,” she has an arsenal of work that would put her contemporaries to shame.

Conceptually, Wanderland is a dizzyingly fun ride through an alternate universe, one unlike those cluttering the airwaves of urban radio. Equipped with a comprehensive range, Wanderland leads the listener from the heights of sonic pleasure to deepness of the albums two sociopolitical pieces “Little Suzie” and “Mr. UFO Man.” Both songs serve as forward-thinking social commentary on the chaotic situation of our millennial world (“What if the holy Trinity was Christians, Muslims, Jews / Yet we bomb each other for coverage on the news”) – written surprisingly before the attacks of Sept. 11.

In contrast, the elated erotica of the record is both rich and playful. Kelis takes on many masks, from the Blondie-esque rap narrative of “Daddy” to the pun-filled frolic “Flashback” (“You make me come … alive”). The dichotomy of sex ‘n’ religion is one we haven’t seen pulled off so well since Prince.

Working first with the Neptunes when they were virtual unknowns back in 1999 on her debut album Kaleidoscope, Kelis continues the artistic camaraderie on Wanderland. The Neptune sound doesn’t define Kelis, if anything it complements it: She molds her own unique musical landscape alongside the Neptunes start-stop beats.

The guest appearances on Wanderland are fruitful and noteworthy. Each featured artist adds their own distinct element to the album’s already fantastical vibe. Fieldy of Korn provides production on the Eazy-E looped banger “Easy Come, Easy Go.” Gwen Stefani and the boys of No Doubt offer backing to Kelis on the euphoric rock track “Perfect Day.” This album rolls along with goodie upon goodie, never letting up until its finale.

With Wanderland, Kelis might finally be able to achieve the same level of overseas love on her home turf. And if she doesn’t this time, we’ll only have ourselves to blame for not getting a ticket on this train.

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