Being an R. Kelly fan requires a lot of compartmentalization: In order to fully enjoy his music, you have to block out the lurid and/or absurd realities of his life and his music. For example, you can’t think about his alleged pee-pee sprees when dancing to “Step In The Name Of Love,” and you certainly don’t want to dwell too much on the non-midget lyrics of “Trapped In The Closet,” a song that’s basically a worse-than-usual Tyler Perry movie boiled down to about 40 minutes. But even the most die-hard R.-lover will be tested by Kelly’s soon-to-be-released Double Up album, which leaked over the weekend, and which is absolutely bonkers.
Double Up is so bananas, in fact, that it really needs to be divided into two discs: Disc One would be a fairly sane (though typically eyebrow-raising) collection of the late-night dance tracks and “let’s go back to the room” slow jams that R. Kelly fans have come to know and love, while Disc Two collects the half-dozen or so Up tracks that were recorded in crazytalk. Here’s our hypothetical breakdown:
“Tryin’ To Get A Number”
“Leave Your Name”
“Freaky In The Club”
“I’m A Flirt (Remix)”
“Hook It Up”
Admittedly, there are a few crazy moments here–especially on “The Zoo,” in which Kelly lets loose wildlife noises and dubs himself a sexosaurus. But that’s a good kind of nutty, and the rest of the tracks are either pretty good or flat-out great (“Same Girl,” “Freaky In The Club”). In theory, this version of Double Up would move 2.5 million before the year’s over, and earn a career-high 8.3 on Pitchfork.
“Havin’ A Baby”
Here’s where things go off the rails (“Off The Rails,” by the way, is a yet-to-be-released Kelly track about grotto sex). There’s “Real Talk,” which is essentially a one-sided “fuck you” phone rant between Kelly and an accusatory girlfriend; “Sweet Tooth,” a ballad that finds Kelly claiming that he’s all up in her middle, and “ooh, it tastes like Skittles”; and “Havin’ A Baby,” which incorporates Lamaze-class instructions into the chorus. As for the Ludacris/Kid Rock collaboration “Rock Star” and the unsettlingly too-soon Virgina Tech tribute “Rise Up”…maybe they’re best left off both discs.
That leaves us with “Sex Planet,” which we posted yesterday, and which certainly merits some sort of Library Of Congress recognition for full-on obliviousness. In case you’ve already forgotten, this is the track where Kelly wants to “taste your milky way” and “enter into your black hole.” But it also contains this striking couplet: “Girl I promise this will be painless, painless/We’ll take a trip to planet Uranus, Uranus.”
A line like that–one that invokes a third-grade “Uranus” entendre not once, but twice–is proof that absolutely no one at the label thought it would be a good idea to step in, distract Kelly with a bucket of Hennessy and some co-eds, and hit “delete” on a few tracks. But it also makes Double Up a conflicting experience for his fans, who must decide which side they’re on: Is R. Kelly an eccentric R&B wizard in need of a good editor? Or is he an erratic, increasingly weirded-out horndog who masturbates with a telescope?