This review originally appeared at www.forcesofgood.blogspot.com
R. Kelly has put out nine albums. That's quite an output for someone who is marginally talented. But what do I know? I'm a silly blogger. And he's the King of R and B. He's managed to come back after getting thoroughly clowned by Dave Chappelle and...ahem...other issues. Double Up offers the world what you think it would: club songs, slow jams and melodrama.
The club tracks on Double Up serve as a hedonistic how-to guide of nightclub behavior, including bringing not one, but two ladies home ("Double Up" featuring Snoop Dogg,) stealing someone else's girl ("I'm A Flirt (Remix)" feat T.I. and T-Pain) and getting freaky in the club ("Freaky In The Club"). You have to appreciate an artist who gets right to the point with his song titles. The club songs all produced by Kelly, seem just average at best. You can see how people would dance to it, but it lacks the GNF (Go Nuts Factor.) He's got an ear for writing a catchy tune but nothing great.
Kelly's true strength is his ability to weave melodramatic storylines into pop songs as evidenced by his magnum opus "Trapped In The Closet." "Best Friend" features Keyshia Cole and Polow Da Don visiting Kelly's character in jail. It turns out Cole and Polow's character have begun dating while Kelly's character has been in jail. On "Same Girl," Usher and R. have a conversation where it turns out--surprise, surprise--they are both dating the same girl. "Real Talk" though may be where R. keeps it the realest, no pun intended. This song is annoying because Kelly punctuates every line by saying "Real Talk." But the nuts and bolts of the song are true. It is, in fact, "real talk." How do I know? Here's an example. Sometimes, you're in the mall and you're just quietly waiting for your smoothie from Smoothie Criminal or whatever your local smoothie proprietor is called. There's a dude on his cell phone behind you, arguing with his girlfriend about her hearing that he was out at the club, getting freaky on some other chick. But all you can hear is him defending himself. This is exactly how "Real Talk" plays out. He makes it so authentic by repeating a sentence three times in a row as if his cell phone is cutting out: "Did she say there were other guys there?/Did she say there were other guys there?/WERE THERE OTHER GUYS THERE??" And all you can hope for is that they hand you your smoothie, so you can get away from a cellular domestic dispute.
Kelly's weak points on this album are the same that he's had his entire career: he can't write lyrics to save his life. This fact is compounded by the guests who wield excellent command of the English language. "Sweet Tooth," a terrible allegory for a woman's body, contains the laugh-out-loud line "I'm all up in your middle/Ooh, you taste like Skittles." He seems to be setting himself up as an R and B Spinal Tap or Tenacious D. He may have reached a new plateau in musical comedy with "The Jungle" and "Sex Planet." "The Jungle" boasts the line "I got your soul wet, it's like a rainforest/Like Jurassic Park, except I'm your sexasaurus, baby," complete with monkey noises in the chorus. (Seriously, he says Sexasaurus) "Sex Planet" which sounds like a late night Cinemax movie, can be summed up with the atrocious line "Girl I promise this will be painless, painless/We'll take a trip to Planet Uranus, Uranus." He may want to start employing a ghostwriter, just so it doesn't seem like he's the world's worst songwriter.
Interestingly, it's not all about being ballerific and urban soap operas with Kelly. He makes a stab at appearing more human on tracks like "Havin' A Baby." Oddly enough, this is about having a baby. He pays musical tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings on "Rise Up" which sounds a lot like "I Believe I Can Fly." I don't know if this is a PR move to make us forget about his pending legal issues or if he's that compassionate. This could be what he meant by saying he was today's Muhammad Ali, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye.
Aside from the comedic benchmarks he has set, this is pretty crappy. Also, if you want comedy in your R and B, you can always check out Percy Miracles. The best move R. Kelly could make to achieve the Marley-Gaye status he has claimed, would be to hire a ghostwriter. Or he could just audition for "Saturday Night Live." I think he could top "D*ck In A Box" if he really applied himself.
Bonus: R. Kelly - The Zoo