Forever engrained in pop culture memory for her saucy hits like ‘Milk Shake’ and the more abrasive ‘Caught Out There,' Kelis’ upcoming 2010 release Flesh Tone– expected to drop this July– shows the artist has not slowed her pace in the slightest.

It’s been nearly four years since Kelis’ last release, and the single releases that have hit the airwaves so far have reminded us just how much we’ve missed her.

Kelis is still sporting her signature shades of neon (or now-silver) hair dye and futuristic face paint, but it seems that all remnants of her bubblegum/milk-shaking days are gone. Her tracks feature grounded, resonating beats, even huskier vocals and an addictive tempo that effectively transcends the boundaries of hip-hop music.

Songs like ‘Home’ bring a complex layering of rhythm, with a mix of spoken work and chorus that will ultimately bring most trance, trip-hop and euro-trance fans to their feet.

Just as such gratuitous (albeit entirely enjoyable) concepts as ‘Milk Shake’ and ‘Bossy’ are no longer, Kelis has long since parted ways with Pharrell and the Neptunes crew, who were the grinding rock n’roll influence behind the likes of ‘Truth or Dare’ and ‘Young Fresh and New.’

Flesh Tone is Kelis’ first work on fellow artist will.i.am's label Interscope; and not surprisingly, the album’s hit single ‘Acapella’ is produced by David Guetta. While Kelis has never been shy to collaborate– with everyone from Andre 3000 on ‘Millionaire’ to O.D.B. in ‘Got Your Money’ on past albums, and now with Guetta, Jean Baptiste, Diplo and DJ Ammo to name a few– Flesh Tone is the first album to convey such a consistent tone and tenure from beginning to end.

Kelis also seems to have left off the ranting and raging of past tracks, without losing her bad edge. Instead, her lyrics are preoccupied with giving thanks for what we have, as in ‘4th of July’ where she chants ‘Nothing I’ll ever say or do/ Will be as good as loving you’ before breaking into a dance-inducing bridge.

Coming off the press coverage of a messy divorce from rapper Nas, which involved a heated custody battle over their son, Kelis’ work reflects some surprising peace in its line-up of grounded, powerful tracks.

What we’re most thankful for is that this album remains dynamic and continues to push musical and technical boundaries; as more often than not a content artist translates to mediocre pieces of art. Kelis continues to hold her own in the industry, and while her real-life happiness may remain a mystery; the music is real.