Friday, May 20, 2005

The R.

I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to R. Kelly and his music. In Chicago, saying something bad about R. Kelly will get tons of people hating you in a heartbeat (bring up his alleged penchant for young girls and you're in for it). However, in this post, I'm going to be real about how I feel about him. R. Kelly is an example of wasted potential.

You might think that sounds crazy, especially since he has released album after album, song after song, remix after remix, sung on hook after hook, produced track after track. Yes, R. Kelly has made and released a lot of music in his career. However, a lot of his music is repetitive, cliche, and far beneath his talent. So far, he's released only three albums that I think are pretty good: 12 Play, R. Kelly, and Chocolate Factory/Loveland. Both his albums with Jay-Z were awful. R. would've been great if it was only one disc. only has sporadic good songs. Happy People/You Saved Me was an experiment that wasn't experimental.

R. Kelly has a wonderful, flexible singing voice. Each time he sings, it sounds effortless. His voice is distinctive and easy to recognize. He can be a great songwriter when he wants to be. He's usually best at ballads/love songs or anything that involves storytelling ("You Saved Me" notwithstanding). However, he also has an uncanny ability to take the incredibly stupid ("Feelin On Your Booty", "In The Kitchen") and make it palatable and fun to listen to. His fast songs all sound the same (if I hear that damn pseudo-flamenco guitar one more time...) and he sounds utterly unconvincing in thug mode. And he should never ever sing-rap again.

Why did I decide to bring up R. Kelly all of a sudden and give my thoughts about him? I decided to do that because of his new opus "Trapped In The Closet." I'm impressed. Very impressed. I'm ecstatic that the R. has found a creative spark again. "Trapped In The Closet" parts 1 & 2 are the musical equivalent of a soap opera. R. Kelly deftly describes the situation from the point of view of a man caught in a triangle that gets wilder and wilder. I can honestly say that I can't wait to hear the other three parts in the "Trapped In The Closet" suite.

I hope that R. Kelly can kind of live up to his potential again with his upcoming album. He has a bundle of creativity but he seems reluctant to really challenge himself. He's got the R&B world in his hands. Him and Usher (and soon John Legend) are the only distinctive voices among male R&B singers. He has gained the right to take chances as he's doing with "Trapped In The Closet." I know the upcoming TP3: Reloaded won't be exactly what I'm hoping for but I hope that in the time he has before his trial (a time that gets longer and longer), he begins to tap the brilliance that is inside. Don't just go for the simple beat with the flamenco sounding guitar...try something else. Don't go for the simple thug act...go for something a little more. R. Kelly is fully capable of making a masterpiece just as people like Marvin Gaye did. All he has to do is take his time and really try.

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