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R. Kelly: Love Letter
As one of the greatest R&B artists, both vocal and arrangement-wise, R. Kelly has been in the business for almost twenty years now; yet he manages to present a new flavour to his music with his latest album Love Letter; incorporating classic soul influences and lyrics about love and forgiveness.
It takes a true genius to blend different generations and genres together to produce music that pays tribute to the classics without losing its hip quality. Love Letter is Kelly’s tenth studio album and proves that Kelly, despite his many publicised scandals, still has a lot of talent. With him pleading love with deep lyrics and symphonic intros, the listener is left with sweet, moving melodies.
Lover Letter starts with a prelude of the album title, which is basically a solo-sung introduction. It’s a nice gesture to slowly break the album to the audience, but it doesn’t quite work; as the intro was clearly meant to be read out, not sung.
The main track ‘Love Letter’ features a catchy beat and memorable lyrics, and so does the remix ‘A Love Letter Christmas’ with minor lyrical changes. ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ is a smooth track clearly influenced by Marvin Gaye’s trademark soul, and ‘When A Women Loves’ is an excellent symphonic ballad filled with long and striking high notes – it was deservedly nominated for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Featuring the young and talented soul singer K. Michelle, the upbeat ‘Love Is’ makes the album seems like it has it all; although some may not appreciate the overly repetitive lines in 'Number One Hit.'
If it’s not the vocals that make the album worthy, then it sure is the instruments. Real music with real acoustic instruments makes Love Letter a unique find among other synthesized songs that lack genuine emotions. This album was also inspired by names like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, both of which left their marks on several songs written by Kelly.
Love Letter is about pure love devoid of greed, selfishness or materialism. As it happens, R. Kelly knows exactly how to get that message across loud and clear with a bonus of dazzling vocals and backing instruments.
Just ask Guns ‘n Roses’ Axl Rose or try and listen to any recent Korn album without cringing. Many bands quit (R.E.M., Sonic Youth), others tone down their sound (Metallica) and some keep regurgitating what they’ve been doing for decades (The Rolling Stones).
Kim Thayil’s guitar traditionally wails around on the dissonant side of the spectrum and singer Chris Cornell still deals out high-pitched screeches like a rock version of Celine Dion – but they have audibly matured. And considering that the grunge kids of two decades ago have aged with them, many will appreciate this more grown-up, adult sound.
After 52 minutes, one question remains: now that Soundgarden seems to have arrived at their definitive sound, will they become one of those established bands that don’t evolve anymore? Like fellow Seattle-ites Pearl Jam, or grandfathers of rock Aerosmith, for example. Or will they continue to develop their sound, like Muse or Radiohead?
With no prior announcements of its making, save for a short film named “Jungle” released a few hours before it became publicly available, If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late was first released on iTunes Store, Spotify and Soundcloud, and quickly received acclaim – impressive sales figures followe.
So what’s the deal with this mixtape/album hybrid that boasts a massive 17-track track list? As a whole, it shows lyrical maturity on Drake’s side, as well as quite remarkable production. As is his usual, the Canadian singer’s fourth album blends the worlds of velvety smooth r&b and modern hip-hop.
The latter emerges in spirit on the album’s opener. ‘Legend’, in which Drizzy announces, “If I Die, I’m a Legend.” He continues on “No Tellin’”, warning “Please do not speak to me like I'm that Drake from four years ago/ I’m at a higher level.”
It’s a theme that runs through much of the album, with his often ridiculed but much loved romantic (hyper-) sensitivity offer taking a backseat somewhat. His position as a target of more hate that he probably should get drives him to unapologetically state, “I’ve got enemies//Got a lot of enemies,” over the eerie, monotonic piano chords in ‘Energy’.
Despite drifting into self-actualisation on ‘Know Yourself’, the Young Money prodigy still doesn’t go to the emotional depths fans have become accustomed to, rapping “I've always been me, I guess I know myself” and “I want that Ferrari, then I swerve” in one same breath.
With several guest collaborators appearing on the album, one of the highlights is ‘Star67’ featuring Lil Wayne; a song that sees Drake go full-on confessional, rapping about his struggle to financially support his mother, making it in the fickle industry and going from rags to riches.
He explores these subjects further on “You and the 6” – a track seemingly inspired by and dedicated to his mother: “She worry 'bout me from home//You know she raised me alone.” It’s on this song that he most harks back to what can only be described as his unique selling point – rather than gimmick – of breaking the urban music mould with a relative and digestible sense of sincerity.
Though many will argue that If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late presents little other than the familiar introspectiveness of Drake, it does go some way to prove that his musings aren’t exclusively affective in the context of chart-friendly, commercial radio. With excellent production values and a noticeably increasing lyrical maturity, this is possibly his best work to date; an album-come-mixtape that stands tall in a sea of hip-hop bravado.