Late Hall Pass: R. Kelly's 'Love Letter' Is A Nice Reminder Of Yesteryear

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A holiday miracle? A moment in The Twilight Zone? The side effects of the lunar eclipse on Tuesday? Whatever I'm going to call this situation, the result is always going to be constant: R. Kelly's newest album, Love Letter is actually really very pretty good.

Mouth-to-floor good. So I'm scooping up a late pass considering I was told by some readers, that I was missing out on R. Kelly's return to form.

We all know that R. Kelly has had a Scarlett Letter etched on him for years since that "incident". Usually incidents of that caliber, where someone of a public figure variety is pegged as a laughing stock (Thank you, David Chappelle) and/or painted as a pariah, everyone, including myself, has their opinions about it, and most are negative. Still, it's all how we as individuals look at it and if we allow redemption to come through, especially for the sake of the person's contributions to their art (see Chris Brown, El DeBarge, Michael Jackson, etc). So for me, with Love Letter, R. Kelly gets his "second chance". Why?

Point blank, Love Letter is testosterone filled R&B that doesn't pander to it's listener, and that is what I wanted from a well-known R&B male singer this year. It gets to the point without trying on gimmicks. It doesn't drench itself in all the pop electronics a lot of "soul" men have succumbed into doing. It also doesn't marinate itself in that Motown sound everyone decided to wring out like a wet limp towel. It's strictly R&B, with a classic twist, think Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and of course following a 'sign sealed and delivered' Stevie Wonder blueprint. As a bonus, it's also the R&B that I remember R. Kelly doing back in the 90's.

On this he's not as suggestive as say as his classics, "Bump N' Grind" or "Ignition", but the album is a glowing reminder why we dealt with Kells in the beginning: he can craft a tune and has the voice to back it all up. Yep, I forgot that, and it was nice to be reminded of that again in music where Kells is controlled and sounds like he's sincere. Especially on tracks like, "Music Must Be A Lady" and the lush dance of the title track. He says in the beginning this album is for the ladies...and he means it.

I will admit, I haven't checked on R. Kelly since 2003's single "Step In The Name of Love" which is actually my favorite song from him, but Love Letter, as a full album, is bringing it all back for me. Some say this is an R&B resurrection. I say it's a memo to those in the "R&B" game now on what R&B used to sound like and they should take note from a person who has been there and done all of that. The proof is in the album's first single, "When A Woman Loves" which really rises to its occasion. I particularly liked what he with the song during his appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. So has R. Kelly brought R&B back to where it needs to be? You be the judge.

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