R. Kelly tones down the raunchiness in favor of making sweet tender love on his Motown-inspired album Love Letter. The R&B lothario reminds listeners that he’s still got it with the soaring singles “When a Woman Loves” and “Love Letter,” plus its accompanying remix “A Love Letter Christmas.” But did Kellz have the critics singing his praises? Find out below.
Entertainment Weekly: The latest from the king of sex-mad R&B is a refreshingly tasteful foray into classic soul and PG lovemaking. On Love Letter, R. Kelly does falsetto valentines, flirty Motown bounce, even a Christmas remix of single “Love Letter” that involves zero funny business under the mistletoe. B
The New York Times: Never less than impressive, in places, it’s phenomenal, with Mr. Kelly singing as vigorously as ever, on songs that are some of the most elegant of his career. And Love Letter is notable for what’s largely absent: Mr. Kelly’s id, which has otherwise gone untamed—on record, at least—for the better part of the last two decades.
USA Today: Aside from the hanky-panky in the uproarious “Taxi Cab,” R. Kelly sticks to fairly tame, if occasionally melodramatic, expressions of love and longing, echoing the seductive powers of Marvin Gaye. 3 out of 4
Los Angeles Times: “When a Woman Loves” gracefully nods to Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” while giving Kells a smoky, tempered backdrop to tap decades of undeserving-man ballads. Wait for the pleading a capella bridge, which goes on three times as long as it needs to—and it scorches. 3.5 out of 4
Rolling Stone: On his 11th studio album, Kelly experiments with a relatively novel concept for him: restraint. Over ballads fleet enough for wedding receptions but too slow for clubs, he’s the consummate gentleman, cooing and pining respectfully. 3 out of 5
The Washington Post: He’s historically pushed R&B forward, stretching the limits of language and grandeur. But Kelly, who wrote and produced everything here, is operating in a style that is fatally loyal to his forbears.
Boston Herald: Kelly’s flair for the dramatic is well-documented and his questionable extracurricular activities may have led to scrutiny (and court dates), but his musical ability has remained uncompromised throughout, and here he operates in uncharacteristically classy form. B+
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Number One Hit,” “Taxi Cab,” “When a Woman Loves,” “A Love Letter Christmas”