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Wednesday
Nov092011

R. Kelly Memoir to Take Us All On a 'Soula Coaster' (PHOTO)

MUSIC-NEWS REVIEW: People need to chill out on the piss jokes and start anticipating R. Kelly's autobiographical tome.

By Kenny Herzog

The guy's a nutbag, but he's also an incredible artist, and hopefully his memoir will touch on both his weirdness and talent.

I'm not condoning any of R. Kelly's indiscretions over the past 15-plus years. He's been alleged to have engaged in degrading sexual behavior, on camera, with an underaged girl, in addition to longstanding rumors that he wed late R&B singer/Kelly protege Aaliyah while she was a teenager. But if we start evaluating talent on the basis of artists' dubious lifestyles, or retracting our recognition for their finest work, then everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis and James Brown to Led Zeppelin and Guns N' Roses would be stripped of their prestige and ubiquity as well.

At his best, R. Kelly---who just revealed the above cover of his awesomely dubbed memoir, Soula Coaster, to be released via SmileyBooks in 2012---has been the most consistent and prolific R&B songwriter/producer/performer of the past quarter-century. Early slow-jams like 1993's "Bump N' Grind'" pair agelessy with retro-ballads like 2010's "When a Woman Loves." In between, he's played devil and angel; the former on flawless club hits including "Fiesta" and "Ignition," and the latter for sensitive standouts like "When a Woman's Fed Up." When so inclined, he's easily ranked among the Diane Warrens and Elton Johns in the world of epic soundtrack arrangements, evidenced on "I Believe I Can Fly" from 1996's Space Jam compilation, arguably his most recognizable single. Far as production and collaborations go, he's in a league almost all his own. Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Jay-Z, Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears are just a handful of the dozens who've called on Kelly for studio polish and guidance, not to mention credibility. 

At his most confounding but always entertaining, Kelly's kept the spirit of Ohio players alive with ridiculous album titles such as Chocolate Factory, and plain confounded us through a feature-length series of musical vignettes called Trapped in the Closet that have rightfully become the stuff of unwitting cult phenomenon. 

So, it's no surprise that he and co-author David Ritz (whose biographied no less than Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Janet Jackson, among others) cracked heads on a life story headlined by a play on words as inspired as Soula Coaster. It's what the people want from R. Kelly, and he's not one to disappoint. I don't think he really cares whether people think his eccentricity is authentic or an act, or whether he's a sexual predator or misunderstood musical genius. He's both contriving and witnessing his own legend, and I, for one, am eager to read how he testifies to all the above when Soula Coaster sees release.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: It's unlikely he'll really own up to or offer a satisfying explanation for all the controversy, but Soula Coaster should still teem with fascinating insight about a time and space in R&B, and does come with Ritz's legitimate pedigree.

R. KELLY IS FLAWED BUT FASCINATING RATING: 8/10

THE GENERIC NEWS STORIES ABOUT THAT CAN ONLY FIND THINGS TO SAY ABOUT R. KELLY'S NOVELTY AND SCANDAL RATING: We Get It, He's Weird, And You're Cool But Also Lazy/10

WHY DIDN'T HE JUST CALL IT SOUL COASTER? LOL RATING: Who Knows?/10

 

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