Along with his remarkable new album, R. Kelly is publishing his first memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, and signed with the IFC Channel to add chapters to his innovative hip hop opera Trapped in the Closet, which was an early 21st century cultural phenomenon.
Write Me Back continues the homage to classic soul/R&B that distinguished 2010’s critically acclaimed Love Letter. But where that album celebrates the music of the ‘50s and ‘60s, this has a wider collection of musical inspirations, going to sounds that echo Ray Charles, while evoking the passionate magic of Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White and Michael Jackson among many others. The content and the title of this new recording were definitely inspired by the triumph of the previous album.
The songs on Write Me Back do not simply pay homage to older styles, but evoke a myriad of influences at the same time and in the process create something pleasing and new. “I have many directions I still wanna go in musically,” he says of where he is creatively. “This just happened to be a direction I choose for now because the first album did so well people started asking me if I was gonna be doing any other songs like that.. Through those questions I found a second wind of inspiration in the area of doing the classic R&B type of songs.”
The tasty array of musical influences R. Kelly transforms and reinvents ranges through the history of classic soul. “Love Is,” “Share My Love” and “Lady Sunday” evoke the lush, danceable sound of Philadelphia. “Feeling Single” and “Believe That It’s So” effortlessly mash up echoes of Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder. “All Rounds On Me” has a blues feel that Ray Charles would envy, while “Fool For You” has that classic Motown Sound. “Green Light” will make fans of the Isley Brothers happy, while “Party Jumpin’” captures the seriously fun late night spirit of a live Sam Cooke show. Both “When A Man Lies” and “Believe In Me” are powerhouse songs poised to join the canon of R. Kelly standards.
In an era where hip hop has overshadowed R&B as mainstream music R. Kelly has reinforced his credentials as “the R in R&B.” He speaks candidly about the state of that venerable music culture and his role as a keeper of the flame. “I don’t mean to sound bold but I speak the truth, especially when I speak about R&B music,” he says humbly. “R&B has, in some ways been abandoned and…