Disappointing pop and R&B from the 'rehabilitated' star
Love Letter 2/5 Last year’s triumphant Ladies Make Some Noise! Tour was ostensibly a promotional push behind R Kelly’s latest album. But it was more a comeback and rehabilitation, marking his return after being mired in litigation for most of the decade over child-pornography charges. Of course, that didn’t stop the raunchy singer from pretending to remove his pants each night of the tour.
In retrospect, the bland new Love Letter would’ve made more sense in the wake of his acquittal than 2009’s Untitled, an almost tauntingly shameless document full of lecherous lines, such as, ‘Girl, you make me wanna get you pregnant.’ Now, an apparently reformed Kelly takes his time with tasteful romancing. Unfortunately, the music, like its threadbare theme, is utterly recycled.
The crowd-pleasing steppers groove powering ‘Happy People’ and ‘Step in the Name of Love (Remix)’ gets another go-around on ‘Just Can’t Get Enough.’ The disc’s tender single, ‘When a Woman Loves,’ finds Kelly jumping on the retro R&B bandwagon, a formula that returns throughout the disc (‘Radio Message’, ‘Love Is’). Sam Cooke is cool and all, but where’s the lascivious boaster who hooks up with his hair braider and then yodels about it?
Cooke’s not the only artist channeled here. Kelly was purportedly working with Michael Jackson before his death, and two songs convincingly mimic Jacko – ‘Not Feelin’ the Love’ and ‘Just Like That.’ He even breaks out Jackson’s 1995 single ‘You Are Not Alone’ on a hidden track. The Pied Piper of R&B earned that ridiculous handle by playing by his own rules, but this by-the-book holiday pleaser is little more than a sterilised stocking stuffer.