Singer-songwriter R. Kelly is in a unique position: having too many hits.
is modern R&B’s most prolific artist and producer, going back to
1992 and his days in R. Kelly and the Public Announcement before going
solo with “12 Play” (1993), “R. Kelly” (1995), “TP-2.com” (2000), “Happy
People”/“You Saved Me” (2004) and “Love Letter” (2010).
has produced and written for the industry’s top acts — names such as
Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, Aaliyah,
Britney Spears, Toni Braxton, Maxwell and Usher.
Grammy-winning Kelly mounts a new tour, he stuffs his set list with
everything — not just his own hits but also the hits he worked on for
“For me, that’s the hardest part of the show,” he says.
“It takes me three or four weeks to gather all the files and decide what
you’re going to hear and what’s going to go where.”
Artists know there are certain songs in their repertoire that are musts — songs they have to perform or risk fan revolt.
fortunate and unfortunate because even those are a lot of songs for
me,” Kelly says. “I’m coming from 26 years in the business doing these
hits. People grew up with them, and everyone has their favorites.”
Kelly’s own favorites include “12 Play,” “Your Body’s Callin’” and “Seems Like You’re Ready.”
“They’re sensuous,” he says. “I love the sensuous songs, and the women feel the same way.”
has found himself filling his concert with medleys, though he knows his
fans don’t enjoy abbreviated songs. “It’s a Catch-22,” he says.
got so many songs that if I do just 10 songs (in full), that would be
the whole show and people wouldn’t have heard any of the hits they want
to hear,” Kelly says. “So I’m forced to shorten songs to get them all in
there. It’s the only way I can do it now.”
Kelly is calling his
new “Single Ladies” tour, at the Fox Theatre on Nov. 15, “one big dating
game, because all the fellas are finding out about all the ladies at my
show, and they’re showing up and showing out,” he says. “And music is
bringing them together at the end.”
He wants to keep his
production a surprise, but he says fans will get plenty of the
old-school Kelly as well as cuts from his new album “Write Me Back” and
“Love Letter.” Both albums, perhaps Kelly’s classiest efforts, pay
homage to Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and other classic-soul
Kelly says his turn in direction was inspired by his late mother’s love for old-school music, which he grew up listening to.
was just in me to do it,” he says. “It wasn’t like I was just sitting
around saying, ‘I wanna go old-school now.’ I’m a writer. Whatever comes
out of me, it’s my sworn duty to write it down.”
a Woman Loves” from “Love Letter” was the first song he recorded in
this vein, and after recording it he knew he had to do a whole album.
will get back to the type of bump-and-grind songs he’s known for with
his next album, “Black Panties,” coming next year. The title speaks for
“I’m glad to be able to do these different styles of
music,” he says. “I don’t want to be remembered for being in only one
lane. You gotta switch lanes in music.”
One lane he’s driving back
into is “Trapped in the Closet,” his soapy IFC saga that left fans with
cliffhangers in 2007. He’ll reveal the latest chapters Nov. 23 (8
“Everybody has been bugging me about it, asking can I write
more,” Kelly says. “But I didn’t have the finances to go in and shoot
it and get the actors back. But once I went on TV and said I was looking
for investors, everybody wanted to invest, and 30 new chapters were
Kelly’s search for investors was a
surprise to some, but maybe not to others. Word circulated in 2011 that
his Chicago mansion was in foreclosure, and TMZ reported this summer
that he owed nearly $5 million in unpaid taxes.
economy is different now,” he says. “It’s not the same as it used to
be. It hit everybody. You want to be careful in spending a lot of money