Take Me Apart by Kelela is an honest album detailing each step and emotion she experienced on her way to self-discovery from a past relationship. Despite, the popular 90’s R’n’B tronic vibe of ‘LMK’ (her single release) the rest of album was packed with the ethereal synths that Kelela is loved for.
‘Frontline’ begins the journey as she waves a firm goodbye to a relationship. She sings, “Cry and talk about it, baby, but it ain’t no use/See you wasn’t lookin’ when I pushed”; Unlike other breakup songs, her lyrics are refreshingly not overly emotional but final and cold. However, the next track ‘Waitin’ proves otherwise. Despite her initial conviction, she finds her emotions to still be present and quite raw when she meets her ex, and we go from a break up to a make-up.
In ‘Take Me Apart’ she delves in deeper as she re-enters this relationship with emotions more intense than ever before. However, as quick as her new love is found she loses it and we have another breakup with ‘Enough’. This time there is no sass as there was last time with ‘Frontline’ as she sings “Probably telling her the same damn thing/At the same damn time”. Although the composition of the song was meant to mirror the feelings of confusion and mundane nature of break up again after another cycle, it wasn’t the most pleasing to the ear. The overuse of synths repeated and layered over each other, and the length of the song made it difficult to listen to.
‘Jupiter’, named after the synth used in the song, follows up as the dust has settled and she begins processing everything that just took place. Though ‘Jupiter’ was the first song she wrote for the album, it was the last song she finished with the help of The XX singer Madely Croft. The song is very short and almost serves as a poem. At the end, the lyrics ‘I think I know me now/ I think I know’ are repeated underlining that throughout she was vulnerable despite the intensity and intimacy of the songs.
‘Better’ is the most enjoyable track on the album and coincidently has not been overindulged with synth. Kelela’s tone and texture as she sings about reconciliation can be better appreciated by the listener. Different to ‘Waitin’, the track stands firm in creating separation between two individuals in this relationship. In processing the up and down nature of their relationship, Kelela reveals that she pushed too soon and too quickly as she sings “Remember, I told you that we would be closer/If we took some time further apart”. However, this wrong decision didn’t lead to any bitterness as she notes that it has led to self-healing.
‘LMK’ shifts the album to a more emotionally upbeat tone as she has loved, learned and healed. It addresses what Kelela calls as a “drag” that comes after two people have slept together. Her lyrics alongside the 90’s R’n’B vibe serves as a reflection of fun that many tend to have once out of a relationship and in her own words, the song is a “song for girls to go and party”. Continuing this upbeat phase is ‘Truth or Dare’ and ‘S.O.S’. Both show a more playful side as she sings about flirting and having a booty call.
From here things take a slightly more intense turn as ‘Blue Light’ signals to a new love found. The song is another sonic fusion but the arrangement is more inviting to the ear than that of ‘Enough’. With soundbites of crashing waves, she sings that her “chains” have come down and is open to accepting new love despite the hurt of her past relationship. But despite this, we soon arrive at the first conflict within the new relationship in ’Onanon’. Kelela’s description of this argument isn’t a particularly serious one but one rather when each partner is giving each other some attitude, but it leads to yet another break up in the next track ‘Turn to Dust’. Here we come full circle and the pattern is more obvious. All her noted partners don’t seem to be as transparent as she would like. From ‘Frontline’ where sings “since you took your time, You should know why I’m quitting” to ‘Turn to Dust’ in which she says, “Hey, you’re moving slow/But I can’t shake you off”, it seems she gives her all but it is not reciprocated.
‘Bluff’ is her most intimate song as she sings about encouraging her partner to stay on in the relationship and become more vulnerable with her. For her, this is her aim in all relationships as she stated in an interview that “everyone is deserving of unconditional love and that’s what she tries to show each time”. The last song ‘Altadena’ serves like a soundscape to the whole album, still ethereal but is influenced by her idols, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. This is a sudden shift in theme. Her aim for this song, however, was to encourage all black women in whatever industry to continue their ‘grind’ despite there being no space available for them to operate in. Kelela has spoken about the visibility of black women in the media and so it won’t shock her followers that this track is featured on the album.
Kelela stays true to her sound throughout the album despite her increased mainstream visibility. Yet as a complete body of work, ‘Cut 4 Me’ is more sonically cohesive. Nevertheless, there were a few notable tracks, such as ‘Blue Light’ ‘Better’ and ‘LMK’, and her rawness and honesty in telling her journey is treasured.By Adaobi Nezianya