Ben’s Brilliant Best Albums of the 1990s. No. 100

Kelis.

Kaleidoscope.

OK, so, those of you who read yesterday’s post will know that I came up with the idea for this countdown as a sort of teach-myself-how-to-write-about-music (or re-teach-myself-how-to-write-about-music) exercise. It’s a terrible idea. By the time I am any good (if, of course, I get any good) I will be writing about albums that are universally recognised as great. The period where I argue the merits of lost or forgotten or underappreciated albums is going to correspond nicely (or rather, not nicely) with the period where I can’t write for shit. I should do it backwards really – start at 1 and move down to 100 – but that would just be silly, wouldn’t it? There wouldn’t be a lot of tension. So I’m going to start where I should, at 100.

Which brings us to Kaleidoscope, an album which I would be the first to admit peaks quite early and never quite manages to regain the heights it reaches in its first three songs. Does it deserve a place in the hundred best albums of the 90s? Yes, I think it does. Can I actually prove that? …no. Not yet. I can mention the excellent production work of The Neptunes. I can remind you just how good Caught Out There was/is. But making a decent argument explaining why Kaleidoscope is better than whatever album you think should be in the list, but isn’t… Nope. Sorry. That is beyond my abilities.

This is going swimmingly isn’t it?

The 100th album of a top 100 has an importance beyond its neighbour at 99. It is both place marker and gate keeper; a guide to what is to come. For that reason, while I was toying with lists and pieces of paper putting this countdown together I briefly considered a fix. If I had put, say, a Mezzanine or a Pablo Honey or something at the start of the run then we would have felt all comfortable and safe and that. I could have done a quick hundred words along the lines of, ‘it’s not their best but it’s a good’un, yeah?’ and you could have nodded your head sagely and thought, ‘yes, yes Massive Attack/Radiohead/whoever are good at songs,’ and we could have moved onto 99.

But instead, neither of those albums made the cut (and to be frank, Pablo Honey was never in contention, obvs) and ‘their’ place was taken by an album that I’d really like to make a coherent case for, but can’t, because I lack the skills.

Released in December, 1999, Kaleidoscope was Kelis’ debut and one of the first albums to be entirely produced by The Neptunes. It’s proper good and that. You should maybe listen to it. Errr…

Yeah, that’ll do for now.