11
Sep 03

KELIS – “Game Show”

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KELIS – “Game Show”

I like to think of Kelis as an “ask Abby” for the hypermediated age. Her songs are often populated (lyrically, sonically) with bleeping, buzzing (the information age needs new onotomatopoeia) gizmos – planes, space shuttles and PDAs, all made to send us her love. On an ILM thread, someone said that “Game Show” (just such an exploration of digital love), from her essential debut Kaleidoscope, was an album low point. I respectfully disagree. Here’s why:

The melody – a caricature of, you guessed it, the game show jingle – is casio-synthetic in a way that’s actually quite nostalgic (for a child of the 80s, anyway). They don’t make ‘em this cloyingly cute anymore. The tune remembers an imagined past when complicated times used to be simpler, even while Kelis longs for a break from the artifice of it all.

Helium-voiced Pharrel pitchshifting himself into the role of Kelis’s bosom-buddy in the intro.

It’s an inversion of the usual relationship trope – Kelis’s man, all hopped up on media-fed ‘dating game’ love hype- wants to get married, she wants to wait and see if this is the real thing.

The “Hold on!” of the chorus is ambivalent: don’t let the feeling go, if it’s worth it to you, it’s gonna take work to keep it permanent in an impermanent age. And also “hold on”, slow down, woah – this is her life we’re talking about!

Those blank robot voices repeating game show game show game show game show so many times that it goes beyond sense, feeling, reason. Zoot Woman’s “Living in a Magazine” done subtler and better.

In the end we’re left with these impossibly clear music box chimes – either finally delivering the clarity that Kelis craves, or another cruel simulation, another ersatz resolution.

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