★★½ (out of four)
The controversial Chicagoan’s latest album, “Write Me Back,” continues in the vein of “Love Letter,” with throwback production that mostly references the early '70s soul of artists like Marvin Gaye and Barry White. Kelly is an adept producer, and his treatment of these influences generally sounds great. Considering this is a guy who once recorded (among others) a song called “Sex Planet”, he expertly handles the subtlety of singles and clear standouts “Feelin' Single” and “Share My Love,” particularly on the latter's winking encouragement to “populate.”
Frequently, however, “Write Me Back” is undermined by grating melodies on songs like “Believe in Me” and awkward choices like the early rock n' roll sound of “All Rounds on Me.” “When a Man Lies”, another highlight, is the closest the album comes to traditional R. Kelly territory, and it's a nice reminder: While he can mine the classics to create good material, R. Kelly has his own share of classics built around his unique sensationalism. It might be fun to revisit those some time, too.