R.Kelly's new album, 'Write Me Back,' doesn't rely on guest appearances from other artists./USA TODAY
By Steve Jones, USA TODAY
R.Kelly follows up 2010's Grammy-nominated Love Letter with Write Me Back, which like its predecessor plumbs the sounds of yesteryear for inspiration. But whereas Love Letter was oriented more toward the '60s and '70's, Write Me Back reflects the influence of music from the decade before he debuted with Born Into the 90s. Both albums are unabashed reflections on the joy of love (Black Panties, his promised return to the rawer R., is on pause for now).
But while the new album has a retro vibe, Kelly still imbues it with contemporary sensibilities. It is a rare R&B album these days that is essentially wholly written and produced by the artist and unburdened by a gaudy roster of guest stars. He manages to subtly evoke the seductiveness of Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass without losing his own identity.
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This will be a busy summer for Kelly, who has written new music for July's Sparkle soundtrack, including the Whitney Houston-Jordin Sparks duet Celebrate. His memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me with David Ritz, is also due at the end of this month. Maybe that explains all the nostalgia. Write Me Back is chock full of odes to women and love itself. It's Kelly's idea of giving you something you can feel.