Album Review: R. Kelly – Love Letter

by Kil

First things first, I’m writing this review as a music lover. Not as a father of a 5 year old daughter. Not as a someone who runs after school programs in SE Washington DC helping our youth. Not as a prosecutor or judge, just as a music lover. Had to get that out the way before the “how can you support R Kelly comments” came pouring in. Now with that out the way, we’ve got a new R Kelly album on deck. Can anyone believe that R Kelly is up to his 17th (remix albums & greatest hits albums included) studio album? Crazy right?  And all the while on the SAME label!

So what R Kelly are we getting this time around? The freaky “You Remind Me” R Kelly? The dramatic “Trapped in the Closet” R Kelly? The inspirational “I Believe I Can Fly” R Kelly? Or maybe the steppin’ “Step in the Name of Love” R Kelly? Well, Kell’snew album “Love Letters” is like a mix of “Happy People” and “If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time.” (off the double album “The R”) The album plays as a mixture between both styles. Songs like “How Do I Tell Her”, “Love Is” featuring K Michelle and “Music Must Be A Lady” fill the “If I Can Turn Back the Hands of Time lane”. The only problem I have with these are how are you gonna try to capture the sounds of 60’s and 70’s soul music with plug ins and sounds outta keyboards and sound modules and not live instruments? Kells should of stopped down to the Studio in Philly and checked my man Larry Gold to get some live string arrangements. And songs like “Just Can’t Get Enough”, “Just Like That”, “Lost In Your Love” and “Not Feeling Your Love” are in the “Happy People” lane. The only problem for me is I’m not a fan of the “Happy People”/”Step in the Name of Love” R Kelly so I’m kinda left out in the cold on these jawns, but if that’s the lane you like Kells in, then this album is mos def for you.

At the end of the day, “Love Letters” is cool to me but maybe the timing of it is all wrong for me. I’m over the whole “throwback” music of new artist sounding like the 60’s and 70’s. I’m wondering what’s next? Is Nas’ new album gonna have him rapping like Run DMC over rock guitar beats as a tribute to 80’s hip hop? I’d rather see music move forward, then move backwards cause like I always say, I’d rather hear Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye then listen to R Kelly try to do them both. I can understand an artist wanting to pay tribute to the music they love or grew up on but at this point, it’s been done to death! Let’s get a NEW R Kelly album, not R Kelly plays the oldies. But don’t get me wrong, the album isn’t bad, in fact it’s a nice feel good album. But for me this is more background music than anything. If you’re having a get together at the crib, playing spades or putting up this Christmas tree with the fam, throw it on and people will be nodding their heads and enjoying the vibe, it’s just not something that’s gonna stay in my rotation.

3.5 outta 5

  • Stone

    Man, I was VERY skeptical about this album, then I heard the first single, Love Letter and I’m like “This Ain’t that bad. This Love Letter is GREAT” Then I heard the rest.

    Kil, you hit the nail on the head. The Throwback movement is getting OLD. It was fresh, and there are sill artists like Mayer Hawthorne and such who can pull it off, but most artists are using it as a crutch. It’s easy to market, and put together. It’s actually kind of sad. How long can artists copy Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke? It’s been going on for almost a decade now. It seems like 2000 has become the decade of no defining musical genre.

    At LEAST most throwback albums have live instrumentation. This album fails in that respect and fails bad. Kelly should’ve called up Raphael Saadiq on the phone and got some pointers.

  • Like

    3.5 out of 5? Is this a joke?

    The album is a classic 5 out of 5. So what if he didn’t use live instrumentation in some songs? He used live instruments in ‘Music Must Be a Lady’ and ‘Love is” also more songs.

    • Kil

      Naw…not a joke @ all. For you to rate this album a 5 outta 5, you MUST be a “Step In the Name of Love” type R Kelly fan, which is cool! That’s why this album is for you and that’s EXACTLY what I said in the review! I think R Kelly is a genius when it comes to music. I’ve made a double CD of my fav slow jams he’s made. But THAT’S the R Kelly I’m a fan of. The slow jam making R Kelly! Not the “Trapped in the Closet” or “Happy People” R Kelly. But you think THIS a classic?!?!? What do you give “12 Play” a 10 outta 5?

  • B
  • Sandi

    Sad thing not a lot of artists are original. Thats why they use the throwback as an excuse to be lazy.

  • RayEsque

    This is the curse of being R. Kelly. He makes great music period but when it’s not the type someone is accustomed to all of a sudden the record is not great. I’ve heard comments from people saying they like his more R&B/hip hop fusion more than his slower songs. This is a concept album not him trying to be anyone else. That’s why on “Taxi Cab” you hear him singing like MJ and “When A Woman Loves” is him singing in the same tune as Jackie Wilson. Appreciate it for what it is. Great R&B.

  • jconda

    Being a Chicago native, I’m definitely a “Step in the Name of Love” fan. Steppin’ is an important part of afro-american culture in Chicago (yes its that deep), so I understood and fully appreciated that movement by R.K.

    However, above all else, I’m an overall music lover. I refuse to co-sign artists for sub-par efforts when I know they can do better.

    I support Kils criticism on some of the whack production here. Don’t think live instruments across the board would have elevated this release? Google for his performances on Jimmy Fallon with the Roots backing him. Case closed.

    However, I’m kind of on the fence with the whole throwback criticism.
    We cry for ‘originality’. What is that? Who’s a truly original artist these days? Most of the stuff I’m see being labeled ‘original’ or ‘progressive’ is simply rehashed 80’s electro with harder beats or some time of genre mash that is forced and contrived.

    I think the problem we have is that there are so FEW artists who create these throwback tributes and DO THEM JUSTICE. R. Kelly has the vocal & arrangement ability to be incredible in this genre, but his production game fell short.

    In a sea of imitators making it to the top (I’m talking to you, Trey Songs) it was good for Kels to come out on some “old school”, “this is where it came from”, “look I can really sing” type stuff – but it just wasn’t where it should’ve/would’ve/could’ve been. I agree with 3.5/5.

  • NY

    Totally agree with you! Well said! The album is ok but is not his greatest, and fact you pointed about the lack of live instruments is completely true

  • NY

    Music Must Be a Lady and Love is, exactly because they have the live instruments is the reason they are the best. I also liked Number One Hit, so smoooooth and sexy :)

  • ????????????

    Love the way he always try a new route. Smooth and Classic. Highly recommend.

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