I hadn’t been able to articulate why R. Kelly’s two-album retro excursion, which has culminated in the just-released (and very lovely) Write Me Back, is superior in every. single. way. to Raphael Saadiq’s similar two-album experiment.
Until I saw the video for R.’s latest single, “Feelin Single.”
R. Kelly has infused Write Me Back and Love Letter with that same joy. It’s refreshing to see R. Kelly this loose and blissful in video.
As I mentioned before, when I hear Ray Ray’s stuff, it just feels too reverent and removed from the ethos of the 60s. I don’t get the sense that this foray is revealing something uniquely Raphael. It just sounds like he wishes he was there. Nothing more.
Not so with R. Kelly, who I feel is trying to do something else. “Feelin Single” and everything R. has released over the last two years still gives me everything that I love about Robert Kelly but reflected in a 60s musical aesthetic. He’s not just taking a trip to the 60s, rather he’s using the 60s as another way to explore the themes of sex and love and fun that are so much who he is as an artist. If you’re cynical, you’ll think this is calculating. Maybe it is. But the music works because it feels, at its core, like R. Kelly. I just didn’t get that with Ray Ray.
This is not “Your Body’s Calling” or “Half on a Baby.” But this is still a song about finding sex for the night, and he’s downright charming in this video. Never thought I’d use the word “charming” to describe R. Kelly, but that’s what this song and video communicates.
And it’s still R. Kelly. That makes all the difference for me.