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R.KELLY Double Up
 

R.KELLY Double Up

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If you want proof of the talent of R. Kelly the artist, note the widely acknowledged kookiness of R. Kelly the man. Since having his webcam rumors lampooned by Dave Chappelle, the crooner has hardly scaled back the raciness. Quite the contrary: he's almost compulsively referenced his own "freak" ways (from new track "Double Up" -- "All up on each other real freaky/ I'm plottin' how I'm gonna take 'em home with me"). And even musically, he's managed to play the odd duck. His recent multi-part hip-hopera "Trapped In The Closet" was an epic bit of self-absorption. It was also undeniably impressive, as even its snarkiest critics had to admit. And so it became a testament R. the songman: only Kelly could build this outlandish a public image and not be dismissed outright.

Hear his voice and recall why. Kelly is blessed with a once-in-a-generation croon that's both sugar-sweet in tone and primed to make octaves its plaything. He wields it like a weapon, letting collaborators play straight man while he inverts their chords and engages in general vocal gymnastics. New Huey joint "Hook It Up" is a typical R. track. It starts with his usual subject -- a hot girl he saw at the club -- and spins it out into a web of tight rhymes and ecstatic snatches of high harmony. Huey's growling flows and the deep R&B piano serve as counterpoint for Kelly, and the topic works in much the same way. For Kelly, the randy subjects aren't superfluous; they're the constant muse, heating him up until wild vocal trills are his only outlet.

Consider also "I'm a Flirt (Remix)," Kelly's smashing new cut with T.I. and T-Pain. Does anyone who's ever listened to the man, make that anyone in America, wonder if R. Kelly is a flirt? Not exactly breaking news. But that's the point. Kelly returns to the same subjects so he can embellish them still further. And "I'm a Flirt" surely does. Kelly anchors himself to a monotone melody, hammering away at one note before swooping off into the stratosphere.

A similar story plays out across the record. On "Same Girl," in a clever twist on Kelly's interest in "doubling up," he and Usher execute a sumptuous bob-and-weave about a lady who's playing both fellas ("it must be a music thing," R. comments). And in "Get Dirty," working with Chamillionaire, Kelly runs his silken phrases over a hard club banger, leavening an otherwise standard track.

And that's why, ultimately, Kelly's abject ridiculousness when it comes to bedroom matters is something R&B fans can forgive. If it's what inspires vocal flights no other current singer can approach, that's all we need to know. Frankly, it's all we want to.

By Jake Blaine
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Last Updated: 17 Dec 2007 19:13:31 PST home  |  about  |  terms  |  contact
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