REVIEW: Missy Elliott’s ‘ICONOLOGY’ lacks her trademark originality

Missy Elliott poses on the cover of her new EP “ICONOLOGY.”

Throughout her career, Missy Elliott has been known for her unique style and sound. Her new EP “ICONOLOGY” may leave fans who expected her to continue to push boundaries feeling disappointed.

The EP was released on Aug. 23, just days before MTV’s 2019 Video Music Awards, where Elliott was honored with the Video Vanguard Award, and the artist also performed a selection of her songs. The performance received a lot of social media attention, especially for its inclusion of Alyson Stoner, who appeared in Elliott’s “Work It” music video 17 years ago at just nine years old.

Elliott, best known for hit singles like “Work It,” “Get Ur Freak On” and “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” last put out an album in 2005. However, she has released several compilation albums and numerous singles, both as a lead and featured artist, since then.

Her long-awaited new release “ICONOLOGY” may leave fans of the artist dissatisfied by the lack of originality displayed in the five-song tracklist. Basic beats and lackluster lyrics leave the songs feeling unremarkable and largely unmemorable.

The EP’s lead single “Throw It Back,” is an upbeat song with multiple references to Elliott’s past successes. One such reference is the line “Missy still got ‘em losing control / And every night is still ladies night.” The line refers to Elliott’s 2005 hit “Lose Control” and her feature on Lil’ Kim’s “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix).” Other than lines such as these, the song sounds like any other modern rap song.

“Throw It Back” is followed by another upbeat song, titled “Cool Off.” This song is perhaps the catchiest addition to the EP, with a strong beat and fast pace. The lyrics are a bit simple and repetitive, but this seems intentional, as the song emphasizes rhythm over hard-hitting lines.

The EP’s next addition, “DripDemeanor,” has a more sultry feel. In the song, Elliott declares if a man wants to get with her, they have to marry her first. “DripDemeanor”  features Sum1, whose smooth vocals on the chorus add a more R&B vibe and contrast the rapper’s punchy verses. Sum1’s voice is similar to other female R&B artists’ and doesn’t add anything to the song to make it more unique. 

“Why I Still Love You” then brings yet another vibe to “ICONOLOGY,” with more emotional and lyrical lines. Elliott sings about a guy who she just can’t seem to let go, even though she knows she should leave him. It focuses on the internal conflict of loving someone but knowing they can’t give you what you need. However, the song lacks the sort of depth that would have made it more impactful.  

The final and most surprising addition to the EP is an acapella version of “Why I Still Love You,” which might be better than the original. This stripped-down version of the song showcases Elliott’s vocal prowess, revealing a side to the artist that is rarely displayed in her music. This version has a more raw and authentic feel to it, but the lyrics still miss the mark.

Each song on “ICONOLOGY” has a completely different vibe and tells a different story. The tracks do not build on each other, which leaves the EP feeling disconnected and incomplete. The songs are also relatively indistinct and sound similar to songs recently released by other artists, such as Cardi B, H.E.R. and SZA. 

Although the tracks on this EP lack the degree of experimentation and originality fans of Elliott are accustomed to, don’t be mistaken — they are still catchy and worth a listen. The songs are just missing that special something that would make them scream, “This is Missy Elliott.”

“ICONOLOGY” is currently streaming on Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music.

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