The self-proclaimed King of R&B, R. Kelly, knows how to satisfy the ladies with his sex-oozing hits, but did he also please the critics with his 10th studio album Untitled, due tomorrow? Find out below.
Entertainment Weekly: The disconsolate ballad “Elsewhere” seems to signal a chastened man, but tracks like “Number One,” featuring Keri Hilson, and “Text Me” revel in sex as Olympic sport. Kelly fares better when he steps up the tempo, as on new-jack stomper “Supaman High,” Usheresque club rave-up “I Love the DJ,” and disco-boogie squiggle “Be My #2,” even if none feel exactly organic to his style. C+
Rolling Stone: At this late date in history, listening to R. Kelly document his busy sex life is like listening to an old jazzman run through standards—it’s exactly what you expect, but when he’s inspired it’s well worth your time. One of his horniest albums yet (!), Kelly’s 10th gets ridiculous fast, like on “Pregnant,” where he turns the line “Girl, you make me wanna get you pregnant” into a lubricious refrain. 3.5 out of 5
The New York Times: Still, even a routine R. Kelly song outshines much of the competition. In “Religious” he returns to his gospel-y ballad side; this time he testifies to the compassion and boundless patience of a woman who has made him “repent and change my thuggish ways.” He also abandons his robo-lothario mode for “Elsewhere,” a ballad about the end of a romance. Cheesy as he can be, Mr. Kelly still knows how to get a response.
The Boston Globe: R&B’s maestro of carnality hits the sweet spot with his best record in years—a focused, expertly executed suite of songs. Forget the salacious material; you come away from Untitled marveling at his craftsmanship. When he’s on his game, no modern R&B artist even approaches the Chicago veteran.
Newsday: No one writes pop songs about sex better than R. Kelly. Maybe practice really does make perfect. The album’s only weaknesses come when Kelly drifts off into the hyper-wordy style of his “Trapped in the Closet” series, as he does on “Pregnant” and “Text Me,” where he sounds like he’s singing whatever pops into his head, which, you guessed it, is generally about sex. B
Chicago Tribune: Most listeners who pay attention to pop music have already made up their minds about Kelly. Untitled won’t change anyone’s perspective. It’s more a reminder, as he modestly crows in “Like I Do,” that when it comes to lust and music he “blow[s] the competition away.” 2 out of 4
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Exit,” “Echo,” “Number One,” “Be My #2,” “Religious”Tweet
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