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The Meaning of Kelis’ “Milkshake”

One of the biggest hits of 2003 was Kelis’ “Milkshake”, the dance floor banger that centers itself around the special essence of women that men find irresistible. The mildly suggestive lyrics discuss the “Milkshake” that brings all the boys to the yard, with an upbeat, catchy appeal.

The track comes from Kelis’ third studio album, Tasty, and peaked at number three on the Billboard charts in the winter of 2003, making it the biggest hit of her career so far. Written by the Neptunes (Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo), the song was initially offered to Britney Spears but instead went to Kelis.

Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes in 2004. Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

Kelis spoke about the meaning of “Milkshake” in a 2004 interview with Blues & Soul:

It’s sorta cheeky; not to be taken too seriously; a fun, chanty kind of thing. And, to me, a milkshake itself represents the essence of a woman. It’s that thing that men are drawn to about women and what separates one sex from the other.

Kelis on the meaning of “Milkshake”.

Kelis went on to tell The Observer in 2004 that the word was made up on a whim, and so any meaning applied to it would be from listeners taking the song into context.

With this in mind, we would like to propose that rather than the booty shaking that comes to mind and often happens when this song is played on a dance floor, “Milkshake” is a blend of all the sweet things that make a given woman special and attractive. Whether this be her appearance, the way she moves, or any combination of traits, that’s the “Milkshake”.

Let’s dig into the lyrics and see what exactly Kelis is singing about, starting with the opening chorus:

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard
And they’re like, it’s better than yours
Damn right, it’s better than yours
I can teach you, but I have to charge
My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard
And they’re like, it’s better than yours
Damn right, it’s better than yours
I can teach you, but I have to charge

Chorus to “Milkshake” by Kelis.

The chorus is one of self-empowerment, with Kelis knowing that she’s got the ingredients to make men lose their minds. She seems to be addressing another woman, who perhaps doesn’t have as much luck with attracting men.

Kelis says that she could teach this other woman her ways, but she wouldn’t do it for free. This suggests there is a formula of sorts that Kelis has figured out that gives her a unique appeal.

She delves further into this in the first verse:

I know you want it
The thing that makes me
What the guys go crazy for
They lose their minds
The way I wind
I think it’s time

First verse to “Milkshake” by Kelis.

Again, Kelis addresses another woman with a somewhat arrogant air, suggesting that she knows the other woman is jealous of her “Milkshake”. She goes on to say that it makes the men go crazy, which must be why the other woman wants it.

Tasty (2003)

Then, she makes a reference to dancing with the lyric “the way I wind” before making the transition into a pre-chorus:

La-la, la-la, la
Warm it up
La-la, la-la, la
The boys are waiting
La-la, la-la, la
Warm it up
La-la, la-la, la
The boys are waiting

Pre-chorus to “Milkshake” by Kelis.

The idea here is that Kelis is getting ready to go out, likely for a night of dancing where she will find all the boys. She’s getting warmed up to hit the town and make the boys go crazy, while other women watch and wish they could be as desirable as her.

This pre-chorus leads into another hit of the chorus before we arrive at the second verse:

I can see you’re on it
You want me to teach the
Techniques that freaks these boys
It can’t be bought
Just know, thieves get caught
Watch if you’re smart

Second verse to “Milkshake” by Kelis.

In the second verse, Kelis simply reiterates the ideas presented in the first verse, except now she is almost teasing this other woman. She knows she wants to learn the ways, and Kelis simply dangles it in front of her, telling her she better watch and learn.

The lyric about how this “Milkshake” can’t be bought sort of contradicts the “but I’ll have to charge” thing from the chorus, but let’s be honest — this was never meant to be a lyrically deep song.

Kelis live in 2004. Photo by Stefan M. Prager/Redferns

Next up, the pre-chorus drops back in followed by another chorus, and then we reach the bridge:

Oh, once you get involved
Everyone will look this way, so
You must maintain your charm
Same time maintain your halo
Just get the perfect blend
Plus what you have within
Then next his eyes’ll squint
Then he’s picked up your scent

Bridge to “Milkshake” by Kelis.

In the bridge, Kelis offers some insight into what exactly this “Milkshake” is, and the effect that has on the men that come into contact with her. She says this almost as a warning to the other woman, that once she acquires this charm, she’s going to get a lot of attention so she must maintain composure to keep it.

When she says maintain her halo, that means to keep an angelic presence, and don’t do anything wrong to gain power. Just use what she has within and a little bit of swagger and the man will be all over her.

Finally, the song closes with another drop of that bangin’ pre-chorus / chorus combo, and the club goes absolutely wild.

Watch the music video for “Milkshake” by Kelis below.