Say what you want about R. Kelly, but there’s no questioning the man’s resiliency. From the charges of sexual offenses to the feud with Jay-Z that forced the scuttling of their joint tour a few years back, he’s had his share of controversy. But he’s also managed to shrug it all off, and continues to grind out hits as a performer, songwriter, and producer.
That means Kelly’s self-proclaimed title of “King of R&B” actually carries some legitimacy. It also means his fans will forgive him if he occasionally put things on cruise control, which seems to be the case on his latest release, Double Up.
The album starts out in promising fashion with “The Champ”, which features Kellz addressing his personal trials and tribulations over suitably aggressive production by Swizz Beatz. But the momentum quickly fades on the title track, – which sees R. and Snoop Dogg tackling the heady topic of trying to leave the club with two girls – and equally uninspiring team-ups with Nelly and Chamillionaire.
Kelly’s ability to turn straightforward, matter of fact speech into song lyrics (which reached its logical extreme in his “Trapped in the Closet” series) is both a blessing and a curse. On songs like “Best Friend”, it turns the story about a man behind bars dealing with a possible affair between his girl and his main man into an entertaining three-way exchange with guests Keyshia Cole and Polow Da Don.
On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to listen to “Real Talk” or “Leave Your Name” without chuckling at some of the words, and it’s a pretty safe bet that’s not Kelly’s intended reaction. And even his more metaphorical lines can misfire, as he proves on “The Zoo” when he claims that a night with him will be “like Jurassic Park, except I’m your sexasaurus.”
A couple of strong collaborations save the album from complete mediocrity. T.I. and T-Pain join Kellz on the undeniably bouncy “I’m a Flirt (Remix),” telling wanna-be players in no uncertain terms that their girls are fair game. “Same Girl” is a powerhouse duet with Usher that turns the tables as the two singers discover a girl has been doubling up on them.
Kelly also closes the show in fine fashion with “Rise Up,” his tribute to victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech. Not only does the song show that R. hasn’t lost his touch for uplifting fare in the vein of “I Believe I Can Fly,” but profits from downloads of the single go to a fund that aids families and survivors affected by the massacre, a cause everyone can support.
Double Up isn’t likely to go down as R. Kelly’s greatest work, but when you’re on top, you don’t need to knock it out of the park every time up. One thing we know for sure is that even if his fans aren’t feeling everything on the album, Kelly is likely to bounce back just as he has numerous times before.
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