Published Dec 09, 2013R. Kelly: an artist who incites the definitive "love the art, not the person" debate. For an artist who has descended so far down to become a meta self-parody parody of a self-parody, Kelly trudges forth, this time with a somewhat middle of the road "urban" R&B record. With Black Panties, his 12th solo record, Kelly's formerly brilliant ability to fuse his trademark R&B sound with the trendy urban music sound of the minute doesn't save him this time around.
Sexual obsession has been a defining trait of Kelly and his grooves, and Black Panties gleefully doubles down with 12 Play-era raunchy midtempo and slow jams. While he's "glad to have his voice back," he's got something for all the haters on "Shut Up," and song titles like "Throw This Money on You," "Crazy Sex," and "Marry the Pu**y" tell you point blank the sexed-up R&B/hip-hop vibe of this record. As seen through vanity projects like Trapped in the Closet, Kelly has, for better or worse, always followed his own creative instincts: Kelly Rowland does her best Aaliyah impression guesting on "All The Way" and Ludacris lends a hand on the crass "Legs Shakin"; it's on tracks like "Genius" that Kelly shows how good a songwriter he can be when maintaining a balance between sex and sexy.
Ultimately, there isn't much to recommend with Black Panties. Kelly is crazy talented, but has always been at his best when he controls his obsessions, not the other way around. Dogged by personal scandals for the better portion of his career, Kelly is unrepentant, unfazed, and unaware that just because he's in on the joke doesn't make it any less funny. (Sony)