Write Me Back
R. Kelly hasn’t had the easiest of times lately. A mixture of personal scandals, low performing singles, and a few too many "Trapped In The Closet" installments have done much to tarnish his once sterling reputation. It used to be an event when Kelly was putting out a new album and single, so it was a surprise when I happened to come upon a new single called "Share My Love" a couple of months back. I wasn’t expecting much, but found myself shocked at how fresh it sounded. Old school soul vocals paired with updated funky grooves and an absence of his recently grimy lyrics brought R. Kelly right back to the forefront for me.
"Share My Love" is a perfect representation of his new album Write Me Back. The entire album is a master craft in how to create a modern blues album with interesting references to Sam Cooke’s and James Brown’s music from the 70’s. It never has a moment that feels dated or copycat but somehow pulls off also sounding like nothing else in the current R&B landscape. Swinging from late-night come ons like "Love Is" to crooning apologies on "When A Man Lies," R. Kelly embraces many of the roles he has in the past but uses his new throwback styles to create his most cohesive album in years, or perhaps ever.
What’s interesting about "Write Me Back" is that its strengths are in areas in which R. Kelly has traditionally been weaker. His history shows wild success with big, vocally challenging ballads and mid-tempos but more limited strengths in upbeat party anthems. While he has thankfully avoided the hideous trends of using LMFAO and will.i.am for instant, throwaway dance tracks, R. Kelly still found a way of creating perfect summer jams. The doo-wop means N’Orleans blues jam "All Rounds On Me" and the almost-silly-it’s-so-corny call to drinks "Party Jumpin’" are instant standouts. And without a hunt of auto-tune in sight...imagine that!
With "Write Me Back," R. Kelly has done more than return to form. He has created one of his most mature, universally listenable albums by perfecting a mixture of popular throwback soul sounds, his own exceptional vocals, and the modern swag for which he is known. We may not have seen it coming, but R. Kelly has delivered the best R&B album of 2012.
"Write Me Back"
by R. Kelly