R. Kelly is one of the most interesting cats in the R&B game; few would deny this. Personally, he’s always been one of my favorite R&B artists – don’t judge me! Throughout an illustrious career, Kelly has teetered and tottered between risqué bedroom music and more balanced, sometimes conservative, soulful affairs. Spend the time examining Kelly’s rich and varied discography, and the evidence of this ‘back and forth’ is most pronounced throughout the 00s and 10s. Kelly’s ability to be the chief among sinners and then go and thank God for the ride is pretty amazing (or shameful, you be the judge). For all his attributes and his flaws, R. Kelly is important presence in music. But… Black Panties may epitomize nearly everything that is wrong with R&B.
Did I enjoy Black Panties as a reviewed it? Parts of it I truly did. I’m accustomed to R. Kelly’s freakiness, so much so that much of what Kells sings I’ve come to understand you must take it with a grain of salt or just shake your head. That said, my responsible, more mature side finds the album to be incredibly misguided. No, I’m not being Biblical or preachy, but thinking merely morally or chivalrously, R. Kelly’s content on Black Panties is incredibly self-indulgent and goes way overboard. Because he overdoes the sexual graphics, he, like so many male R&B artists (and some female artists) are actually sucking some of the romance out of the genre.
Edginess is a good thing that keeps music among other things fresh. There is nothing wrong with being risqué. The problem is when you overstretch the boundaries. Black Panties suffers from this overstretching syndrome because it’s as if R. Kelly tries too hard to extend upon his sexual imagery of the past; he wants to be even bolder. By trying to top his cutting edge past, Kelly actually comes over as ‘desperate’ to please rather than naturally chocked full of legit swagger. There’s one too many allusions to sex and certainly too many uses of the word itself, which shows Kelly’s single-dimensional deck of cards. I love R. Kelly, but this is where perhaps his game has faded some.
Sure, I get it. Kelly released two consecutive albums that were way too safe given his artistic persona (Love Letter and Write Me Back). If Kelly had continued down that safe path, his fan base who enjoys his freakier side would’ve really be completely alienated. Neither album yielded another Chocolate Factory, Kelly’s most balanced album in recent times. I get it – really I do. However, was it necessary for Kelly to tread the pornographic line? Like The-Dream’s shameful IV Play, Kelly leaves little to the imagination. While this absurdly works sometimes (“Cookie” and “Genius”), other times it’s just plum disgraceful (“Marry The P***y”). My advice to any R&B male artist is to PLEASE stop using the p-word as part of song titles, period. Let’s return R&B to being ‘sexy’ without being oversexed. Kells, I’m glad you’re back my man, but Black Panties lacks enduring substance… or any substance at all, LOL.
This is my last R. Kelly post for minute, I promise!
- Review: R. Kelly, ‘Black Panties’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Ranking R. Kelly’s Albums Since the New Millennium (brentmusicreviews.com)