R. Kelly between passion and prayer

April 04, 1996|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

There are times when R. Kelly's vision of love seems almost angelic.

In "Heaven If You Hear Me," one of the songs on his current album, "R. Kelly," he literally prays that his lover come back, while "Trade In My Life" finds him asking, "What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?" As for "Religious Love," well, the title speaks for itself.

But there are also songs that show an almost devilishly intense interest in sex -- and some rank among his biggest hits. Who could possibly miss the libidinal thrust of "Bump N' Grind," "Your Body's Callin' " or his latest hit, "Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)"?

So which is it, then? As Kelly heads out on his 50-city "Top Secret Tour," should we count him as saint or sinner?

That depends on whether you're talking about his past or his present.

Take his attitude toward love. The songs on "R. Kelly," said the singer, are "more serious" about love than those on his last

album, the hormone-driven "12 Play." As he explained in a press conference recently, "Instead of wanting the woman back into my life, I realize [that there's] one thing that's going to get her back in my life, and that's prayer.

"And that's pretty much what I did on this album. It gave it a little bit of a different touch than the last one."

That's not to say the whole album takes a prayerful approach to love. "You Remind Me of Something," for instance, features Kelly telling a woman, "You remind me of my jeep . . . I would like to take you for a ride." Needless to say, there are some female listeners who think that Kelly should park those lyrics elsewhere.

"If I've offended any woman out there, I would want to say I'm sorry," Kelly said. "I want them to realize that this is show business. It's called 'entertainment,' and that's just what I call myself doing, is entertaining.

"It's sort of like if a comedian could sing, they would sing a song like [that]. Just to make people smile or laugh. . . . A woman doesn't remind me of a jeep literally, you know. So I wouldn't want the woman to take her brain and boggle it like that once they hear that song. Just think of it as an entertainment piece."

Still, the question remains: Where is Kelly headed? Are the spiritual elements on the album a sign that he's planning to pursue his interest in sacred music? Do such songs as "You Remind Me of Something" suggest that he still has a hankering for songs about sex? Or is he trying to go for some Marvin !B Gaye-style fusion between the two?

"This is not an on-purpose thing, to mix religion and love together like that," he answered. "It's just something I felt, something I'm starting to feel about myself and my life.

"When you want to make a change in your life, you can only start by stepping up. You can't jump there -- you just got to take a step. And when people hear this album, [they should] consider that. Just know that it's a step."

R. Kelly

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Where: Baltimore Arena

Tickets: $18.50-$28.50

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 347-2010 for information

Sundial: To hear excerpts from R. Kelly's new release, "R. Kelly," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the code 6167. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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