Release Date: Dec 10, 2013
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock, Contemporary R&B
Robert Sylvester Kelly is, if not a deity, than certainly of that cluttered diaspora, that brilliant and dangerous and flawed muddle of preternaturally talented human beings, demigods whose talent has eclipsed the hominal, leaving them above us all whilst below the law. If he is not Eros, he is certainly what plays upon Eros’ stereo when it has come time to ply his trade; if he is not Aphrodite, he is certainly whom Aphrodite fucks; R. Kelly is sex, period, and unfortunately he embodies just as much those malignant, stomach turning elements which breathe heavy and smolder in the furthest umbrae of the domain as he does the riotous pleasures to be found in humanity’s most intimate sphere.
Over the course of a 22-year career, R. Kelly’s music has co-opted everything from contemporary R&B to Gospel, international music, Hip Hop and power ballads. And while it’s pretty safe to say Robert Sylvester Kelly is one of the few people to record with both Celine Dion and DJ Mustard, through the many phases of his career he’s never shied away from lewd subject matter.
R. Kelly never really went away, but in 2013 he has crept back into pop culture nonetheless. He spent the summer headlining large summer festivals, basking in the glow of fans singing his discography back to him. He managed to—if even for a moment—usurp Daft Punk at Coachella during the encore of Phoenix’s closing set, belting out the opening notes of “Bump N’ Grind” to a dead silent crowd waiting for a curtain to drop and reveal a giant pyramid.
Apologies for delaying this review so long, but I thought it might help to approach Black Panties a couple months reviewed from its release. Primarily this was due to an over reliance on the Village Voice-rekindled narrative of Jim DeRogatis vs. R. Kelly. It’s forever a compelling case, perhaps ….
On his past two albums, R&B's most shameless lover man abandoned his shtick in favor of lovelorn, PG-rated retro soul. But the 2011 throat surgery that saved R. Kelly's voice clearly also reignited his libido, because on Black Panties, he stops lighting candles and starts dipping his wick. "Gonna go down on my knees/And ask that pussy to marry me," he sings on "Marry the Pussy," a deadly serious, gorgeously sung, heavily detailed cunnilingus proposal that will delight fans of Kelly's outsize hump-happy persona.
After Love Letter and Write Me Back, classy and relatively polite throwback albums, R. Kelly reverts to sexually exaggerated and wholly contemporary content for Black Panties. Kelly, joined by a deep roster of fellow songwriters and producers, dispenses with the strings, horns, and dashing charm, and dishes out sleaze by the bucket over modern backdrops that slink and whir.
Imagine R. Kelly's career as an intense game of Freudian ping-pong, volleying back and forth between sanctified devotion and ribald sexuality. The internal issues that have driven him to vacillate between these two poles have famously manifested in a series of personal scandals, but even these events have failed to fully ally him to one side, the push and pull between the two becoming more and more pronounced.
Pussy. Pussy is what pervades R. Kelly’s 12th album that he, accordingly, titled Black Panties. Kelly has infamously been connected with sex, whether that be through the content of his music, people’s propensity to use his records to soundtrack their own bedroom activities, or in other, much less savory ways.
Should we distinguish between the life of an artist and the work that he or she creates? I was young, sometime early in high school, when I first discovered the works of Richard Wagner. I was absolutely, utterly enthralled — the German composer’s works were at the time some of the most overwhelmingly beautiful pieces of music that I had heard in my life. But I soon discovered that Wagner authored anti-semitic writings and participated in the sort of race-fueled Germanic nationalism that would so prominently factor into the impending rise of the Nazi Party.
At 46, R. Kelly is adept at finding inspiration in the banal, and though he's beloved as a purveyor of baby-making jams, he often sings of everyday struggles. After two albums of soul- and disco-influenced R&B, Black Panties is the prolific crooner's return to raunch, but it's emotionally more varied than the title suggests. The marquee sex songs run the gamut from warmly playful to voyeuristic to absurd on Marry The Pussy, which morphs from comic objectification to surreal obsession through the unrelenting repetition of its bizarrely chivalrous title.
R. Kelly: an artist who incites the definitive "love the art, not the person" debate. For an artist who has descended so far down to become a meta self-parody parody of a self-parody, Kelly trudges forth, this time with a somewhat middle of the road "urban" R&B record. With Black Panties, his 12th solo record, Kelly's formerly brilliant ability to fuse his trademark R&B sound with the trendy urban music sound of the minute doesn't save him this time around.Sexual obsession has been a defining trait of Kelly and his grooves, and Black Panties gleefully doubles down with 12 Play-era raunchy midtempo and slow jams.
Where is R Kelly in 2013? In recent years, Kelly has been softening his image, making reasonable and schmaltzy LPs, echoing in part, 60s and Philly soul. However, there's been a renaissance of his older work. 'Bump 'n' Grind' and 'Ignition (Remix)' have again become club favourites, and irony turned into full on love when Kelly appeared onstage with Phoenix at Coachella.
After two terrific retro-soul records, R. Kelly unleashes his hedonistic side, reminding all of today’s boundary-pushing pop stars who taught them how to get their freak on. The culture police might have hemorrhages listening to these uncensored tracks, but anyone with a sense of humor and an appreciation for smartly crafted mainstream R&B will appreciate the singer-songwriter’s return to his wild ways.
R. Kelly has never been one to shy away from sex talk. Sure, he’s responsible for one of the greatest gospel songs of all time (“I Believe I Can Fly”), but he’s also sung about kangaroos mating, secret trysts, and taking his key and sticking it in some girl’s ignition. Kelly—and a lot of Kelly’s fans—likes to get down, and he doesn’t care who knows it.
It began in April at Coachella. That's where R. Kelly made a surprise appearance with the French band Phoenix, delighting (and maybe befuddling) an indie-minded crowd only minimally aligned with the audience that's helped drive Kelly to R&B superstardom.. This is a modal window..
When in doubt, sex it up. R. Kelly gets back to the (slow) grind on “Black Panties,” a lavish and almost entirely single-minded album that returns him to what’s probably his best-known and definitely his most widely parodied mode. After the kindly, uplifting, organic-sounding, neo-soul love songs of his two most recent albums — “Love Letter” in 2010 and the more disco-tinged “Write Me Back” in 2012 — Mr.