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Iconology (Warner)

In the one week we got new music from Missy Elliott and an appearance at the VMAs that was freaky in all the right places. Such a bounty generates so many, sometimes conflicting, responses that it can be as dizzying as a Missy Elliott VMA performance.

She’s back! One of the smartest, sharpest and fun-nest artists of the ‘90s and early 2000s (and one huge inspiration to the VMA’s newest star, Lizzo). But it’s only an EP, a tease more than a resolution.

Still, that’s better than a stray single every few years, and means she might be back to full health. This means an album might be near! Sure, but it might mean nothing of the sort given there’s been at least two occasions in the past 14 years when an album was only months away we were told.

Of the five tracks, two are versions of the same song: one full backing; the other acapella, that’s not exactly a full load. Yeah, but the song, Why I Still Love You, is a blend of cool-as ‘90s and doo wop with a relaxed tempo that almost carries the rhythm section and always feels pretty basic in approach. And when it’s stripped back to voices the degree of difference is so small that it feels pretty close to complete.

Best of all, it’s an unalloyed bit of straightforward pleasure. And you might hear some echo of the similarly retro-minded Back In The Day from 2002.

Speaking of retro-minded, the first track, Throw It Back, is both a nod to and diversion from the thought of what if her best years were back then. It’s as barebones as possible: pretty much a hum over snare shots, its percussion is in the bounce-off of the vocals where Elliott reconfigures the title in various ways. It feels jerky and familiar, playful and haughty at the same time, but not really shedding any new light.

But it also tickles at your synapses and prepares the ground for the better Cool Off where intermittent bell and siren now interject over resonating bass-sounds as she leans more into the mix of disdain and snap of the vocal line.

The EP’s middle point, DripDemeanor, is also its middle ground and most translatable moment. There’s some gorgeous sliding R&B; some frank talk to a potential lover that he’s only ever going to be allowed in on her conditions not his neediness/weakness; Sum1’s light voice bringing a degree of sweetness and lightness; and a bit of fingersnap in the beat.

And then, after the double hit of Why I Still Love You, which reveals itself to be conflicted itself (a cheating lover still has his hooks into her, but she’s going to be alright – and he’ll still be a shit) it’s over. Not even 15 minutes. A taste. But more than a teaser. A signpost. We hope.

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