R. Kelly, "Untitled"

84 Billboard Rating

Outside of the hits "Same Girl" and "I'm a Flirt," R. Kelly's last album in 2007, "Double Up," was a guest-heavy exercise in boredom. But the singer/songwriter redeems himself on his newest release, "Untitled." Predictably, sex and love are both displayed in ample measure. But this time around, Kelly eschews the interplanetary sexcapades of "Double Up" for fewer cameos and more down-to-earth fare. Beyond top 10 lead single "Number One" (featuring Keri Hilson), the album is signature Kelly: fantasy-filled romps, club jams and heartfelt ballads brought to life by the singer's ear for catchy beats and melodies and mood-setting lyrics. Leading the charge are the playful "Echo" (abetted by Kelly's sexy yodeling) and "Whole Lotta Kisses," the lively "Be My #2" (a nod to his stepping roots) and the emotionally sincere ballads "Religious" and "Elsewhere." The one constant throughout: Kelly's soul-dripping tenor. With 18 years and counting under his belt, the singer/songwriter reminds us why he remains an R&B force. -Gail Mitchell

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