Happy People/U Saved Me

Channeling another creative yet conflicted soul—Marvin Gaye— R. Kelly's latest project dissects the sexual/ spiritual dichotomy that makes him tick musically.

Channeling another creative yet conflicted soul—Marvin Gaye— R. Kelly's latest project dissects the sexual/ spiritual dichotomy that makes him tick musically. "Happy People" is the party-jam half of this double-CD. Adopting a DJ guise as the "Music Weatherman," Kelly eases into the feel-good mood with such finger-popping charmers as "Weatherman" and "Love Street." Some selections are derivative of earlier hit "Step in the Name of Love." But Kelly has an uncanny ability to mix retro sounds with tasty dollops of contemporary seasoning. The real ear-opener is the project's inspirational second half. Here, soul-baring lyrics really hit home, especially in light of Kelly's legal entanglements. However, try listening to "How Did You Manage" or the Stevie Wonder-hued "Diary of Me" without making an emotional investment. There's no doubt: Kelly's winning musical streak continues.—GM