The more R. Kelly tries to portray himself as the lover of every woman’s dreams on his new album Untitled, the more he comes off as the creep of their nightmares. On “Pregnant,” for example, Kelly thoughtfully volunteers to share his genetic material with the right woman after first establishing that his romantic modus operandi normally involves taking other men’s girlfriends to a hotel for one-night stands. On “Echo,” he volunteers to drive women to such unimaginable heights of ecstasy that they’ll yodel (yes, yodel) in appreciation, but his promise of a nonstop, daylong, super-intense sexathon with only an occasional break for meals sounds more sadistic than seductive. On “Be My #2,” the disc’s best track, Kelly whips up a disco inferno powered by a monster bassline and frisky horns as he once again makes an offer any self-respecting woman would find easy to refuse.
“Be My #2” stands out in large part because it’s one of the only upbeat, propulsive numbers on an album largely devoted to depressingly interchangeable slow jams. Untitled could desperately use some of the vulgar energy and giant hooks of The Demo Tape, his superior contribution to DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grillz series. Kelly has never been afraid to recycle ideas; much of the album moves, just barely, to the dripping-faucet backbeat Kelly used throughout the Trapped In The Closet saga. Kelly is still intermittently hilarious—if never intentionally so—but too much of Untitled feels generic, which is a curious flaw for a larger-than-life eccentric with the most, though not necessarily the best, personality in mainstream R&B.