If R Kelly’s last album, 2007’s Double Up, was for the fellas, this one is for the females – just as the title of his current tour, Ladies Make Some Noise!, indicates. Broad strokes of smooth, if sleazy, hypersexualised intentions course through Untitled, R Kelly’s ninth LP and one that’s curiously absent of any obvious singles. The closest so far, ‘Number One’, finds him and Keri Hilson analogising lovemaking to hit making.
It’s surreal to think that just over a year ago Kelly was tangled up in a high-drama court trial on child pornography charges. And while that’s unquestionably the strangest episode in his fascinating – and often deeply uncomfortable – music career, it’s ignored here, as Kelly increasingly seems to follow someone else’s template.
The electro bounce of ‘I Love the DJ’ could’ve been a throwaway from Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, and one of Untitled’s best tracks, the hilariously yodelling ‘Echo’, features the flatly voiced formula popularized by The-Dream and Rihanna. Still, Kelly nails the recipe better than either of them. The man can sing. Which makes it all the more frustrating when he continues to abuse Auto-Tune.
‘Religious’, the closest thing on the uneven disc to his Grammy-winning ballad ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, steers clear of crossover potential with lines like ‘Got a nigga waking up extra early on Sunday’. The pied piper of R&B is much better when sticking to what he knows best, as driven home by album-closer ‘Pregnant’, a slow jam featuring male crooner contemporaries Tyrese, Robin Thicke and The-Dream. Kelly takes the refrain: ‘Girl you make me wanna getcha pregnant.’ It’s hard to listen without blushing. Or chuckling.
Available in stores.
If you listen closely, you can hear Jason Adasiewicz’s faint mumble mimicking the melody of his vibraphone solo on the title track of the new Varmint. It’s a time-honoured technique – revealing that the best improvisers know exactly what they’re doing – and evidence of his rising stature as one of the foremost players on the instrument today.
On his second album leading the quintet Rolldown, Adasiewicz’s mallet work glows over radiant post-bop originals like ‘Green Grass’ and ‘Punchbag’, illuminating a remarkable chemistry with drummer Frank Rosaly. Both percussionists lock in with bassist Jason Roebke, and together their fierce swing anchors the flawless front line of cornetist Josh Berman and reedist Aram Shelton.
The 32-year-old Adasiewicz is fond of writing phrases that are catchy, yet rhythmically ambitious. As the combo faithfully carries out his clever compositions, it has grown into one of the best working groups today.