Album: R. Kelly, Write Me Back (RCA)
A soul survivor who still has the power to seduce
R Kelly remains, even in his mid-forties, the most irrepressibly lubricious of contemporary soul singers, his orbit never straying far from the boudoir, though as his bizarre song suite "Trapped in the Closet" confirmed, never insensitive to eccentricity.
Upon recovering from last summer's surgery on his tonsils, Kelly announced his next album was to be called Black Panties, and represent a return to the charged sexuality of his 12 Play debut. But he's been persuaded to shelve that project in favour of Write Me Back, a thematic extension to his acclaimed 2010 offering, Love Letter. On that album, he demonstrated his facility with the mores and techniques of classic Sixties soul, while this follow-up finds him emulating Seventies Philly soul, a medium with which he sounds, if anything, even more at home.
The bridge is made with the opener "All Rounds On Me", a slice of Ray Charles-style R&B, featuring gospel inflections in the service of carnal love. But once its honking baritone sax and "shoop-shoop" backing vocals are out of the way, Kelly's fully into Seventies mode, with period-sound drum-machine pulses lending a gentle Latin sway to songs like "Believe That It's So" and "Lady Sunday", and sumptuous strings cementing the lavish symphonic-soul style of "Fool for You" and "Share My Love", with its plea to "get together, populate" – by Kelly's standards a genteel chat-up line.
There are a few duff notes – "Party Jumpin'" is a clumsy OutKast soundalike, and at six minutes, "One Step Closer" more than overstays its welcome – but for the most part, Kelly's touch is equally sure both on ballads and more up-tempo numbers, like the skittish disco-funk of "Love Is" and "Feelin' Single", which glides along with the rhythmatic elegance of Chic. Yet for all his production skills, he remains first and foremost a vocal stylist of considerable ability, his subtle melismatics on "Beautiful in This Mirror" shaming the clumsier entreaties of younger vocal suitors.
Download: All Rounds On Me; Beautiful In This Mirror; Believe That It's So; Feelin' Single
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 4 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 5 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
This little boy loves books so much that he cries when his mother stops reading to him
Prog rock finally comes of age with launch of the first Official Progressive Chart
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up