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Album Review: R. Kelly - 'Write Me Back'

Creative & Versatile

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Album Review: R. Kelly - 'Write Me Back'
R. Kelly's Write Me Back, which was released in the U.S. June 26, 2012, is the second straight album where he's gone retro on us and made a number of songs that sound like they could have been recorded between the 1950s and '70s. But unlike his previous album, Love Letter, this one isn't all nostalgia, all the time. There's a few songs here that evoke the timeless spirit of classics, but with a modern twist. Although this album by itself isn't near the top of the list of R. Kelly's best releases, it manages to further cement his status as one of the music industry's more creative, versatile artists.

Emulating Idols

In December 2010, when R. Kelly released his 10th solo album, Love Letter, it was by and large a stylistic tribute to some of the R&B/Soul icons of yesteryear, like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Marvin Gaye. And apparently Robert had so much fun emulating his idols that he decided to do it again on his latest album, Write Me Back. The new album is essentially a sequel to Love Letter, with Kelly paying tribute to Michael Jackson and Smokey Robinson, among others. Although time will tell if this release becomes regarded as highly as some of Kelly's classic releases, like 12 Play, R. and TP-2.com, the album definitely has it's share of well-written, well-sung songs. Among them is "When a Man Lies," when Kelly breaks down the mental and emotional toll that untruths can take on a woman. It's a simplistically arranged, old-fashioned track that's a marked contrast to some of Kelly's sexually-charged mid-to-late 1990s material. The same goes for "Clipped Wings," a Stevie Wonder-esque track where Kelly expresses regret for not living up to promises he's made and how he wishes things had turned out differently. Other winning songs include the retro singles "Share My Love," the Isley Bros. sound alike "Green Light," and the Michael Jackson-esque "Feelin' Single" which, like all the album's songs, have love, sex and relationships as a common theme.

Love, Deluxe

But although the majority of the songs on Write Me Back purposefully evoke the musical styles of times past, there's also a few songs that are pretty contemporary. They're on the deluxe edition of the album, however, which has four more songs than the standard version. Of the deluxe tracks, maybe the most interesting is "Beautiful in This Mirror," where Kelly sings about how much he enjoys looking at his woman and himself in the mirror while they're making love. It's a sweetly sensual track, but is risque in that it evokes memories of his trial for videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl. Even though Kelly was acquitted of all charges against him, maybe making a song about getting off on watching himself have sex wasn't the smartest move on his part. The other bonus track that really shines is "Fallin' from the Sky," where Robert sings over a piano-driven track about his phobia of heights and how being in a relationship with a certain person sometimes makes him feel like he's been pushed out of a plane.
All-in-all, Write Me Back is maybe Kelly's best feel-good release since 2004's Happy People/U Saved Me. And although it was probably unnecessary for him to go to the classic R&B well for a second straight album, this is a worthy successor to Love Letter, and easily one of the better R&B/Soul albums of 2012.
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