Good Read...but lukewarm reaction to the authors feeling and suggestions.........


Hidden Content

Remember "I Believe I Can Fly," the song you clutched your 7th grade crush to, playing over the closing credits of Space Jam? Well, if you anticipated that 2007's most seminal album would be recorded by a nowpedophilic corn-rowed rapper with a mug that looks like it might have been smashed one too many times with the back end of a shovel-congratulations, you're a pop culture Nostradamus. Personally, I was too busy listening to the new Spoon record to notice.

What's fascinating about Double Up, Kelly's brashest, sexiest album to date, isn't the "ironic potentials" of say, recording a song entitled "Sex Planet" that promises a trip to a loved one's "Uranus"-but the undeniable potential the artist holds in his unrelenting id.

The now-infamous 13-part video saga cum opera "Trapped In the Closet" is a Dadaist endeavor that is, as Sasha Frere-Jones recently commented in The New Yorker, worthy of at least one graduate seminar. Yes, it does feature a midget that shits himself. But more importantly, it's an escape from one mindless canal to another-like the best of Dali with the existential angst of Martin Scorcese's After Hours. R. Kelly's Sylvester (the artist was born Robert Sylvester Kelly in 1967) is like a Kafka with cornrows-in that he fully believes in an absurdist reality. And at the best of times (when Kelly isn't-ew!-hooking up with an actress in a coordinated terrycloth jumpsuit), we relate to the constant confusion that baffles even his most simple decisions. Sometimes even the things that should happen, like having sex with your wife, don't. Which is, of course, why one gets out his gun whilst being trapped in the closet, etc cetera, etc cetera.

The hipster ilk seem to think that R. Kelly is passable R & B because it's "ironic." (Because God knows, calling a hipster ironic is like calling a chauvinist sexist.) But R & B at its truest, most basic form is all about integrity-and R. Kelly is nothing but an emotive being. (Or perhaps the most self-aware person alive. Case in point: producing his 15-yearold wife Aaliyah's debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But a Number during a scourge of controversy over their relationship.) In his newest single, "I'm a Flirt," Kelly relays what might be his biggest problem, in that when it comes to women, R. Kelly remains entirely indiscriminate. "Same Girl," features an oddly homoerotic video with Usher in which the two play basketball shirtless, toast each other with Hennessey by the fireplace and harmonize stanzas on individual cell phones, is all about a 'ho who may be doing you wrong. And "Sex Weed" is pretty self-explanatory- though Kelly may be the first innovator to employ the word "climaxin" as an all-purpose verb.

Double Up, Kelly's 8th studio album and umpteenth time on the Billboard music charts, is proof that even quivery-voiced nymphomaniacs need love too. Even when he's being serious (which is always), it's hard not to bypass ostensible sexual connotation. Kelly's "Rise Up," a nationalistic anthem for sufferers of the Virginia Tech tragedy, reads like an ad for Viagra (example: "And when you feel like you've given it your all/Rise up/When your back is up against the wall/Rise/Rise up.") True, sympathy and sensuality occasionally intersect. (See 2001's "Feelin' on Yo Booty" for details.) But voiced by that breathy baritone, with those porn-like instrumental arrangements (and children's choruses)- it's back to the closet, or should I say the psychological catacombs, of Sylvester's interiority.

Taking all that in, R. Kelly just might be our generation's Bob Dylan. If one examines Dylan as a musical figure who was unafraid to bear the cultural repercussions of his time-from that famous coda in "Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35" and more obscurely, "Desolation Row" off Highway 61 wherein Dylan references T.S. Elliot and the sexual availability of Cinderella with equal aplomb-we see the same lack of artistic latency both Roberts share. True, R. Kelly has a song entitled "Sweet Tooth" in which he compares sex quite predictably to candy: "I'm all up in your middle/ooh it tastes like Skittles." However, in a time and place where most culture is posited as pornography, what else can a self-professed flirt do but get it on?