Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Album Review: R. Kelly - Untitled (3/5)


After the what I thought was mildly disappointing Double Up, self-proclaimed King of R&B: R. Kelly returns with his ninth album--a return to the sultry slow jam induced framework with tasteful sexual overtones that made his first solo album 1992's 12 Play, his self-titled sophomore and third album such R&B masterpieces, of course not nearly as commendable. The release of the album seems like it's been kept under wraps as I probably would not have known he had an album out if I hadn't been looking at the US iTunes album charts.

Well into his forties, R. Kelly sure hasn't lost that provocative spark as he sings: "Text me back something freaky, let me know just how you wanna do me," in one of the albums best slow jams "Text Me," maybe not as captivating as the sensual cooes in his best-known R&B hit "Bump N Grind." Whilst Double Up was an obnoxious mix of crunk, hip-hop and modern urban-influence sounds, but only salvaging a few highlights ("I'm a Flirt," "Same Girl" (with Usher) and "Leave Your Name") Untitled, seems to pull it back showcasing what R. Kelly knows best--producing good R&B without the adherent front, however still a weak delivery.

Caribbean urban duo Rock City are first to be featured on opening track "Crazy Night," a various collection of different shades of beats within 3 minutes. The verses are built around a skittering bass line backed with rhythmic clicks and handclaps, whereas the chorus is rightfully more fulfilled with synth, drum machines and other sounds. Following is "Exit" a dramatic piano key and bass driven mid-tempo, with Kelly's eluding harmonies intact--"Echo" is another mid-tempo except without piano chords, riding on just R&B fronted bass line, still sounds pretty good.

Whilst the first three tracks are pretty solid, the fourth "Bangin' the Headboard," possibly my least favorite track on here, quickly introduces the albums weak middle-section, which is strange as the "normal" thing these days is to have a strong first half, strong middle and weak last. "Go Low" is a sexually amped slow jam, it's not bad, but lacks the drive that made his previous slow jams great work, following is "Whole Lotta Kisses," which has nice '90s soul vibe but very flat for its 4 minute running time and "Like I Do" is an obvious filler.

Lead single "Number One" featuring Keri Hilson seems to bring the album back to prominence, eluding a mid-paced groove, Hilson sounds very good on here also. Some modern disco-influenced come into play on "I Love the DJ," it sounds like Chris Brown's "Forever" (what song doesn't these days?). The last few songs towards the end aren't that good either. "Superman High" has a kinetic hand-clap styled composition, which probably would have sounded alright five years ago. I like the trumpets in "Be My #2" which also seems to a disco-influenced venture, however seems out of place on here.

I like the first of the albums only two ballad "Religious," probably the only track on here that can hold a candle to "I Believe I Can Fly." "Elsewhere," is good too, I love the vocal variation that seems to disappear on most of the tracks before. Closing the album is the star studded "Pregnant" featuring Robin Thicke, The Dream and Tyrese, what a ridiculous topic for a song, initially I thought it was joke.

I'm disappointed with this, especially R. Kelly is my favorite R&B singer of all time and it's shame to see him follow up medicore work with another although taking into account this is indeed better than Double Up. At first I was stoked by the title, however then I found out the title of the album isn't Untitled it actually just has no name. Rapper Nas also did the same thing for his ninth album (coincidence) last year. I don't see the appeal of denying an album a name personally.

Best: Number One, Religious, Elsewhere, Exit, Echo, Crazy Night

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