A Hint of the Struggles Behind R. Kelly's Boasts

Although the reflective, I-miss-my-dead-friend theme of the smash single "I Wish" is the first impression the singer gives with his fourth album, the majority of the 19-cut collection is business as usual for the wickedly sexual Windy City soul man. Kelly's new collection (due in stores Tuesday) finds him ruminating on his erotic exploits and his struggle with celebrity. Neither topic is remarkably fresh, but the sensuous style with which Kelly presents his sultry music makes it consistently entertaining and engaging.

The singer turns the gender tables by offering to entertain his partner on "Strip for You" and even apologizes for his own shortcomings on "I Don't Mean It." But his boasting makes him a king of braggarts. Throughout the album, Kelly trumpets his sexual skill and his ability to provide his women with any of their material wants.

As he navigates this territory, Kelly suggests an undercurrent of struggle, and that's what elevates this album to the level of his previous work. He presents himself as a troubled man who has everything but really has nothing. It's an intoxicating mix that goes to the core of human experience, regardless of how base the presentation.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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