Meaning Behind Kelis’ Iconic “Milkshake” Song

In 2003, one of the most popular tracks was Milkshake by Kelis, from her third album Tasty. It has remained the biggest hit song of her career, making it number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the Rhythmic chart. 

The suggestive lyrics and upbeat catchy vibe, make it seem that she has something very special that attracts boys and makes her irresistible to them, but what exactly is the milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard? If you’ve been wondering about that since 2003, then keep reading as we dive into the meaning behind Kelis’ iconic Milkshake song. 

The Origins

Kelis - Milkshake (Official HD Video)

Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams both of The Neptunes wrote and produced the track, but it wasn’t initially supposed to go to Kelis, which is something a lot of people don’t know about. It was offered to Britney Spears for her fourth album In The Zone, but instead, it went to Kelis. It’s not known whether Spears turned down Milkshake or whether it had more to do with an agreement being unreachable between her and The Neptunes contractually. 

Milkshake was brought about after the album named Tasty was created. The recordings happened in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Kelis heard the song and wanted it to become her first single from the upcoming album because she knew it was going to be a great track. She was very excited to begin recording the vocals to this synth-funk R&B song, and it came in with 113 beats per minute, making it a very fast composition. It’s a lower-beat dance track that has been compared to other funk and R&B songs including Touch It by Monifah. 

The Music Video 

If you haven’t watched the music video for Milkshake, it’s a good idea to check it out right now so you understand a bit more about it. Jake Nava directed this video where you can see Kelis go into a diner, which is called Tasty’s Yard, calling back to the name of the album. 

She begins to suggestively dance while wrapping a cherry around her lips, with a mother in the diner seeing that and covering the eyes of her child. Nas plays the cook in the video, and he begins to bring the milkshakes out to all of the customers while Kelis keeps dancing, and at the same time, the milkshake machine starts to break and squirt the milkshake on the customers. 

There is an obvious sexual vibe in the music video, and you can use the squirting milkshake as a metaphor for sexual situations. The milkshake machine breaking could also be taken as breaking the guy down and getting through to him as you make him see you as an attractive woman with something he wants or needs. 

Chart Performance 

When Milkshake debuted on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart on September 6, 2003, it landed at number 73. On January 3, 2004, the track peaked at the fourth spot. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in October and landed at the 95th spot. 

It peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after 13 weeks. For five consecutive weeks, it stayed at number three. In total, it was on the Hot 100 chart for 22 weeks. In December 2003, the song topped the Hot Dance Club Songs chart but only stayed there for a week before being bumped. 

It also was successful in other countries including in the UK where it peaked in the number two position on the UK Singles Chart, and it stayed there for four weeks consecutively. It reached the top five of the charts in other countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. 

The Lyrics 

The opening chorus is about empowerment and how she knows she has what makes guys go wild. It could be talking to another woman who isn’t as lucky with the guys as she is, and she mentions she could teach her, but it wouldn’t be free. She then insinuates that there is something about her that makes her special compared to other women. 

In the first verse, she continues to seem to be talking to the other woman with more arrogance about her, saying she knows how jealous the other woman is of her. She acknowledges that she knows there is something about her that makes the men want her more. She briefly talks about dancing and then enters the pre-chorus, which is her getting ready to go out for the night, and the lyrics suggest she’s going out dancing. She knows the women will be watching and wishing they were her as she begins driving the guys crazy. 

The second verse continues with her saying the same things she did in the first, but there is almost a tease element to it, almost laughing that the other woman wants to know what she does and how she does it, and she is flaunting it. 

With the Milkshake bridge, she is nearly warning women to be careful if they happen to have the milkshake because it’s going to make them get a lot of attention from men. She warns the women that they need to be composed and maintain an angelic charm and warns them not to do bad things to try to get this special power. Instead, have some swagger when you realize your milkshake and that’s what will drive the boys crazy.

It’s that final part that lets you know a little about what the “milkshake” is because it gives you the hint it’s within your self-confidence, and if you’re not arrogant about what makes you special, that’s how you’ll attract a man.

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So…What Is It About? 

Kelis has said that Milkshake is whatever you want it to be since using “milkshake” was done just on a whim. This means that it’s a metaphor and can be used to describe any qualities of a woman that make her attractive. Whether we’re talking about her hair, the way she walks, the way she dances, her overall appearance, or something else that makes a woman attractive.

For example, if the way a woman dances makes her attractive to a man, then that is her milkshake. Another woman who might have a certain cheekbone structure that makes her attractive would be her milkshake. 

The milkshake is in the eyes of the beholder, so there is no one quality or one thing that it is about since the listener gets to choose what they want it to mean. There is an essence about women that men are attracted to, and this is the milkshake metaphorically speaking, and that thing men like varies from one man to another. 

Kelis also has said in other interviews that what we know makes us special or different from another woman, and that’s what the milkshake is. Whatever that is for you as an individual woman helps give you self-confidence, which shows wherever you go is the answer. 

Reception By Media 

There were a lot of media that were praising The Neptunes when Milkshake was released, calling it innovative and groundbreaking in terms of production. Kelis was also praised for her vocals in the song along with her message of being playful and seductive and creating just a fun upbeat track that grabs your attention. 

However, not everyone loved the song with Entertainment Weekly writer Neil Drumming saying it was more of just a lustful party track. The Neptunes were also criticized by some for it being boring and something Williams quickly came up with while he was sleeping. The Guardian writer Dorian Lynskey said it was nothing but double entendre and exploitative.

Even with some in the media being critical of the track, it was labeled by The Observer as the best single from 2004 and Pitchfork listed it at 21 on its Top 100 Singles list of songs between 2000 and 2004. VH1 put it at 61 on its list of 100 Greatest Songs of the 2000s.

Movies & Television

Milkshake was no doubt one of the biggest tracks of 2003 and 2004, so it’s no wonder that it was used in several movies and television shows right from the start. In 2004, it was featured in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and in Mean Girls, then in 2006 was in Date Movie and Ugly Betty

The song was also used in movies and television shows years later including Identity Thief, The Big Short, Jane The Virgin, Mary+Jane, Love Island, South Park, Orange Is The New Black, and 2 Broke Girls.

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