As an afrofuturism & grotesque fan, it’s unsurprising that Kelela’s ‘Blue Light’ was right up my alley from the very first frame. She reminds us how closely the “strange” and the erotic are tied when her locs become unwieldy in their growth, stripping her of her dress until they’re the only fabric coursing around her. The post-breakup period of her cloistering from connection ends. These are moments of revival for the tactile & sensitive self whose “discipline is slipping.”
This isn’t the first time Kelela’s full-on sheen makes her ethereal. Consider ‘A Message’ where the lighting feels dark enough to ward us off. Flipping between black & white and red & blue, we get the sense that she’s warning us not to inch in too closely, her eyes dark pools that we’re liable to fall into before we can reach her space. Unlike the you that’s “so clear” to her, the guarded Kelela is anything but. “Blue Light” feels considerably more inviting with the calming, oceanic blue of the background swimming across her skin as well. Draped in a jeweled yellow that spins to sunset oranges and pinks under our gaze, her deep red claws also accent warmth under her skin-tone, slightly shattering the alien allusion she’s put forth. The wrapped pearl ear cuff calls us back to the sea, but more importantly, beauty being created under pressure. This moment of rapid unfurling doesn’t appear random, but a result of just how much has been held in.
Her body continues to undo this vision: her locs feel so grounding and earthly against the cool tones of her face, chest, &> back. When they surround her body by roping her limbs, I sense a completion. Though ‘Blue Light’ is composed towards a new lover that makes her “chains come falling down”, she’s centered in her sensuality, which grows and envelops her completely until we’re brought to the last moment—her almost completely sheathed in hair. She’s unable to make eye contact but fully gives into the vulnerability that comes with letting your guard down in a new relationship. I daresay we’re encountering the pearl getting made.
In her performance at Gasa Gasa, the backing blue lights felt moody but honest: I could read her movement & expression best in them. So whenever she says, “baby, keep the blue light on,” I’m brought again to her enrapturing presence: one that commands every frame, one that makes each gesture feel weighted. Who & want to see her illuminated?