R. Kelly

Black Panties (RCA/Sony)

Rating: NN

At 46, R. Kelly is adept at finding inspiration in the banal, and though he’s beloved as a purveyor of baby-making jams, he often sings of everyday struggles.

After two albums of soul- and disco-influenced R&B, Black Panties is the prolific crooner’s return to raunch, but it’s emotionally more varied than the title suggests.

The marquee sex songs run the gamut from warmly playful to voyeuristic to absurd on Marry The Pussy, which morphs from comic objectification to surreal obsession through the unrelenting repetition of its bizarrely chivalrous title.

Despite flashes of melodic and lyrical inventiveness, production-wise Kelly sounds like he’s chasing innovators The-Dream and Mike WiLL Made It, especially on the strip club tracks. Meanwhile, the tunes earnestly addressing disillusionment and strife (Right Back, My Story) belong on another album.

R. Kelly could probably make 100 more Black Panties albums – a sign his inspiration has plateaued. Time for a change.

Top track: Genius

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