Kelly’s 2005 DVD hip-hop-era Trapped in the Closet was absurd, hilarious and, thanks to the presence of a well-endowed, asthmatic midget, refreshingly random. And – praise be! – there are more instalments to come. That’s not to distract from his standing as a songwriter: Kelly spent the ’90s being comical and schmaltzy (‘I Believe I Can Fly’), composing for a slew of chart-toppers and shifting 50 million albums in the process.
His 11th album, Write Me Back, shares a template with 2010’s Love Letter, with melodies that recall Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and Michael Jackson. ‘Love Is’ pays homage to Barry White, while the finger-clickin’ ‘All Rounds on Me’ incorporates jittery, ’50s guitar licks.
Having written and produced all 16 tracks, this selection would benefit from editing, but with so much pop music assembled by committee, Kelly’s latest is a testament to his gift for penning memorable, smooth grooves.