R. Kelly

Double Up (Jive)

The most perverse moment on R. Kelly's new album is, surprisingly, neither "The Zoo"—a slow-jam full of animal noises that suggests he and his lady had some company in the sack—nor "Sex Planet," which offers a particularly unfortunate metaphor for back-door action. It's "Rise Up," the product of Kelly's belief that he could—just days after the Virginia Tech massacre—help the healing process by penning a carbon copy of "I Believe I Can Fly." The result is a limp, quasi-gospel tribute to the victims' families that needs tragedy to invest its clichés with any sense of meaning.

However, if you can overlook the disturbing sexscapades of a guy who still faces child pornography charges—as well as Kelly's tasteless tribute—there are some worthwhile moments here. "Same Girl," his long-awaited duet with Usher, is an understated, funny and hugely successful variation on "The Girl Is Mine." Sure, the decision to focus on the clubs instead of the boudoir—as exemplified by tracks such as the defiant dance anthem "Rollin'"—may alienate some fans, but anyone who's stuck with Kelly through his more serious travails can also make it through the overall disappointment that is Double Up.

 
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