R. Kelly's 'Black Panties' review: One-track mind
Related media50 best albums of 2013 Rock stars then and now Barclays Center concerts Notable music collaborations Women in rock music 10 guitarists to watch
R. Kelly likes sex. A lot. Always has and probably always will.
What sets his 12th studio album, "Black Panties" (RCA), apart from the rest of the work is that he's really only singing about sex now. No "I Believe I Can Fly" here. No sex-related "hip-hopera" like "Trapped in the Closet." He doesn't even use euphemisms for sex like "Ignition" very much anymore, though he can add "Cookie" to that list. (When he talks about Oreos and declares himself a "cookie monster," he's talking about, um, something else.)
Kells is now just putting his sex talk out there unvarnished. "Crazy Sex" is pretty straightforward with lines like "Let's do it on the balcony, let everybody watch, we don't care 'cause we're in our zone." On "Every Position," he declares, "I wanna do it, do it, do it, in every position." And, there is the soon-to-be-famous "Marry the ---- ," where he declares his love for a certain part of the female anatomy 57 times.
After all this practice, though, Kelly has become a master of sex songs. "Genius" is a great throwback slow jam, up there with Prince's "Darling Nikki" and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." "Legs Shakin'," featuring Ludacris, is another sleek, '80s-styled soul ballad, while "Throw This Money on You" uses layers of icy synths to create electronic cool as current as anything from The Weeknd or Rhye.
After 18 tracks and 70 minutes or so, "Black Panties" does get monotonous, but Kelly certainly finds ways of occasionally spicing things up.
THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE Inside Kells' one-track mind.