Until now, Usher’s “Climax” has been one of the only truly successful marriages of R&B and EDM — or at least, one of the few fusions that hasn’t strangled R&B’s essential sensuality with the velvet-rope clichés of Las Vegas’ ersatz-Ibiza phase. Now Kelis and dubstep pioneer Skream step up with a new single, “Copy Cat,” that makes Usher’s ode to Tantric stamina sound, in comparison, like the self-portrait of a one-minute man.
If the winking point of “Climax” was that, duh, there was no climax, “Copy Cat” displays an even more exquisite refusal of the money shot. While his group Magnetic Man is no stranger to big-tent bombast, here Skream limits himself to an airy, elegantly restrained beat reminiscent of SBTRKT’s “Right Thing to Do,” with tuned hi-toms ringing like icicles dripping from the heat of Kelis’ breath alone. It’s technically Skream’s single, but it’s Kelis’ steamy presence that defines the song. Free-associating on feline riffs — “Ohhhh, c’mere copy cat, you’re my puppet / I love it” — Kelis proves herself the undisputed queen of this pride. Literally: In the song’s barely-there breakdown, mewling kitties give way to an actual lion’s roar. But drops are for kids, not catwomen, and so the song’s purring denouement is a plateau of infinitely delayed gratification, just Kelis reeling us in with her exquisite ball of yarn, a temptress dangling spun gold and cashmere.