New Recordings: R. Kelly, Shelby Lynne, Childish Gambino
Ratings: **** Excellent, *** Good, ** Fair, * Good
nolead ends Look out, ladies: R. Kelly and his "taser tongue" are back. The enduring soul-pop star has ditched the classic-soul moves of his last two albums, Love Letter (2010) and Write Me Back (2012), and is once again leaning in to his libido and following his horniest instincts. A glance at the track list reveals the gist: "Legs Shakin'," "Crazy Sex," "Every Position," etc. The album cover features Kelly wearing a mask and stroking a topless woman with a violin bow as if she were a musical instrument, and indeed, on "Lights On," he sings, "Make your body sing to me/ Sounds like R. Kelly's greatest hits." The often hilarious (intentionally or not) Black Panties doesn't quite sound that good, but it smartly plays to the core fan base of the silky-voiced Chicago singer who was found not guilty of child pornography charges in 2008, On "Shut Up," he thanks his fans profusely for sticking by him. Their reward is a set of 13 polished tracks (17 on the deluxe edition), with the most pathologically pervy of pop stars getting back down to the business of writing what he knows.
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Shelby Lynne
nolead ends nolead begins Thanks
nolead ends nolead begins (Everso ***)
nolead ends This little EP feels like more than a stopgap. Although its five songs clock in under 16 minutes, their depth and breadth belie its brevity.
Lynne recorded her last release, 2011's Revelation Road, by herself, and it was her most autobiographical and sparse album. Thanks, on the other hand, has the inviting accessibility of I Am Shelby Lynne, her sixth album (which, ironically, won her a Grammy for best new artist); the title track would fit neatly on that record. With the exception of the somber, bluesy ballad "Road I'm On," the songs on this EP are upbeat and optimistic. They effortlessly blend country, soul, and gospel in varying proportions in arrangements that use acoustic guitars, piano, pedal steel, and fiddle, and highlight Lynne's power and subtlety as a singer and writer.
- Steve Klinge
nolead begins Childish Gambino
nolead ends nolead begins Because the Internet
nolead ends nolead begins (Glassnote ***1/2)
nolead ends Donald Glover acts the fool on NBC's Community. But Glover is also a true rapper who specializes in a daring honesty. His rap identity is the cocksure Childish Gambino. His album Camp - easily one of 2011's best - was street-smart and witty (sans snark), with subtly driving rhythms to propel his rhymes. Still, you had to wonder if hip-hop aficionados took him seriously.
Because the Internet should show them Gambino is for real. Guests like Chance the Rapper (often called Chicago's next big thing), Flying Lotus collaborator Thundercat, and songstress Azealia Banks appear on Internet, perhaps to lend hard-line cred, but Gambino doesn't need them. As a coproducer (with Ludwig Göransson, composer for Community), Gambino turns the suite-like album into a thrill ride of twitchy, ambient noise and grinding rhythms, as in the powerful "Shadows." He finds romance on the weird and weary "Telegraph Hill," and he shows the pensiveness of a Gil Scott-Heron on "3005."
- A.D. Amorosi
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SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 12/14/13 © 2013
On Sale Tuesday
Zac Brown Band, The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1 (EP);
The Texas Tenors, You Should Dream;
Dam-Funk & Snoopzilla, 7 Days of Funk;
Brendan Benson, You Were Right