For all the insanity of his output, you cant really say that R. Kelly isnt talented. The guy has an old soul/Sam Cooke/Marvin Gaye kind of voice behind all the Trapped in the Closet and alleged illegal dealings. His new album, Love Letter, runs the gamut from new soul to the old soul that made Cooke and Gaye famous, and Kells nails it in all genres.
Most people overlook R. Kellys talent. It is understandable that a 23-part hip-hopera, in which Kells sings every part from himself to his wife to Omar from The Wire to an overweight, white, southern woman, is distracting and causes one to not notice the talent in his voice. The sheer lunacy of the story line is enough without the repetitive music loop. And yes, the allegationsof which he was clearedof urinating on a teenager could discredit talent. People did the same with Michael Jackson (whom R. Kelly gives a tribute to in the form of a bonus track cover of You Are Not Alone, which he sings the piss out of) while he was alive. Things get easily overlooked when teenage livelihood is in danger.
But, in the instance of Love Letter, you have no excuse to overlook his talent. Okay, so the opening track, Love Letter (Prelude), is 50 seconds long and a bit odd with Kells singing a capella, Dear ladies, its your boy January, and I would like to welcome all of you to the love letter all bum! But he sings it really well. Kells has solid new soul/R&B jams like Love Letter and Number One Hitwith the great lines, I got a studio up in heaven, and its the perfect atmosphere. Its guaranteed to take you platinum and You are my Elvis and Priscilla. My Michael Jackson Thriller. Smooth Operator by Sade My movie star. My Coming to America. My Avatar! He drops into older soul with ’70s funk track Just Cant Get Enough and a very Marvin Gaye-sounding Love Is ft. K. Michelle. The latter being a sort of modern version of Aint no Mountain High.
Music Must be a Lady, Radio Message (another great ’60s via ’80s soul jam), and When a Woman Loves (with the gem “She got more faith in me than a beach got sand”) are more favorites that show if R. Kelly can just focus his mind a little, he can pull off some damn fine songs. Granted Taxi Cab, a song about R. Kelly having sex with a stranger in the back of a taxi cab (it was like a hotel room), is a little weird and kind of a weak link, but its still really damn entertaining.
There are some of you who might be leery of the kind words said about this album in this review, and I understand. If you are looking for another Ignition, you wont find that here. What you will find is some sex-makin music and some fantastic soul music. This is a lights off and candles lit album, not a club album. You may think the kind words are more from the kitsch value of R. Kelly, but I assure you they are not. Give it some spins, and decide.