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Every time R. Kelly releases a new album, I always underestimate him for some reason. He was the King of R&B in the 90’s and portions of this decade, and even with a very nasty and potentially damaging public scandal he stayed consistent in his music. Over the past four albums, I’ve tired of him because I feel like he is struggling to stay relevant and young when he should be transitioning into an older sound. Having said that, I’ve said the same thing before listening to his past four albums, and surprisingly they’ve all been pretty great. And this new album “Untitled“, now his 9th solo studio album (it’s really his 12th if you count his debut with Public Announcement and his two collaboration albums with Jay-Z) is also just as great. Here’s what, R. Kelly is, has always been, and will always be the best when it comes to R&B Sex Music. And this album is all about sex. In fact on one track he openly admits “There’s only 2 things, in this world, That I’m the best at, it’s true, Number 1 is music, Number 2, can’t nobody rock your body out” and throughout this very pleasant and very well sequenced album he goes on to yodel “Echo”, sing in spanish (the albums first single) “Number One” with Keri Hilson, and even get “Religious” all about sex. I can’t hate, it’s what he’s built his career on thus far and obviously what works for him, at one point he even says this is “12 Play, 4th Round” referencing his most successful albums and the classic 90’s album that started it all (and has had 2 sequels so far). He does a fine job of putting together a nice album, and there are even points where he ventures out of the R&B world on the club track “I Love the DJ”, and “Be My #2” which has a nice disco feel to it. Nothing truly groundbreaking, but for R. Kelly fans they won’t be disapointed because he stays in a very familiar, thus comforting territory.

Speaking of R&B Artists who are releasing albums after very public scandals, let’s talk about Chris Brown. His new album “Graffiti” comes out December 8th, and for alot of reasons fans are looking for him to drop something amazing to bring the focus back to his music. The big problem with this album, now his third, is it’s so all over the place conceptually. He goes from being the sad, love struck, “woe is me, my life as a celebrity is so hard” guy on tracks like “Lucky Me” and “So Cold”. Than he goes on to reinforce a bad boy, Player image on tracks like “What I Do” and (the terribly innapropraite and sickening) “Wait”. I think what’s more disappointing about the album is the fact that he hasn’t progressed much since his last album “Exclusive”, and at times this album seems like a continuation of that album instead of being what it should have been, an improvement. There’s alot of good stuff on the album, but even some of the better tracks like “Famous Girl” and “Sing Like Me” sound like they could have fit easily on that prior album. And what’s funny, is this R&B crooner has some of his best moments on this album, and of his career when he ventures outside of that genre. “Crawl” is a really wonderful Pop ballad in the vein of his duet with Jordin Sparks “No Air”, while “I.Y.A.” and “Pass Out” (which sounds like “Disturbia”, and I’m quite certain it was meant as a duet with him and Rihanna, but don’t quote me on that) have him feeling confident and at home in the club music genre. And the albums closer “I’ll Go” is phenomenal vocally and production wise. The track which is almost R&B somewhat Rock, is matched perfectly by the lyrics and the vocal delivery. If he had took more of a risk with this album and really went outside of his comfort zone this could have been a really great album. As it stand, it’s average for the most part, but him stepping outside the box on those few songs shows a little promise for his career.

And for something completeley out of the box, Adam Lambert. He may not have officially won American Idol earlier this year, but undoubtedly he was the Star of the season. In fact, with his Rolling Stone cover (the only Idol alum EVER to cover the magazine solo) and the media circus surrounding his sexuality, and the “controversial” American Music Award performance have made him a true star. And, surprisingly, the music on his album “For Your Entertainment” is better than the hype. Normally these Idol albums are a pretty generic mix of the artists influences and ready made Radio hits. This album follows that format, and there are a few truly awful tracks but for the most part this is a very solid debut album. The album goes from Rock to Dance music and back a few times, with a few glimpses into Lambert’s inspiration growing up. So you’ll get tracks like the title track, “If I Had You” and “Sure Fire Winners”, fun dance tracks with a little Rock attitude which Lambert more than handles even when you can tell he’s less than thrilled with the material. “Whataya Want from Me” “Sleepwalker” and “Pick U Up” have him vying for time on Modern Rock and A/C radio stations and these are a few of the best tracks on the album. However Lambert is really at home on “Soaked” and beautiful “Broken Open“, which show restraint over tracks obviously inspired by the Epic Power Ballads of the 70’s by the likes of Queen and Meatloaf. Overall a very promising debut, it may be all over the place and a bit long, but Lambert’s voice is unique and diverse enough to tackle it all. We will probably be hearing from this guy for a while now.

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