R. Kelly’s ‘Buffet’ tastes unsavory, bland

R. Kelly_RCArecords
RCA Records/Courtesy

Whether you have plans for the holidays or you don’t, you may or may not want to stop by The Buffet, a sonic smorgasbord only R. Kelly could deliver. With his 13th album, fans are bound to find satisfaction from ingenious lyrics, if nothing else.

The album kicks off with “Poetic Sex,” the most entertaining song on the album. The song isn’t sonically transformative — none of the songs are, not that Kelly tries. Those who enjoy his magnum opus “Trapped in the Closet” would be loath not to find lyrical treasures here. The song implements AutoTune to a seemingly self-parodying affect and begins, “My sex is poetic.” A myriad of startling, laugh-out-loud metaphors untangle: “Get you so wet / Welcome to the aquarium.” After laughs and shocks dissipate and the water calms, one realizes that R. Kelly, for all his pleas and croons, is a great comedian, not the sexy lover he thinks himself to be.

Placing this transparently comic track as the second in the album sets it up in a comic register, only to swerve into mediocrity with the occasional surprise.

“Let’s Make Some Noise,” a song that doesn’t really go anywhere, manages to interest with its muted production and a rewinding backing track. “Switch Up,” featuring Lil Wayne and Jeremih, revolves around going from one one-night stand to the next. Like most songs on the first half of The Buffet, Kelly’s production is sparse, with crispy drums and scattered synths.  

From here, The Buffet settles into a sentimental R&B style. In “All My Fault,” R. Kelly apologizes to a lover over a soft piano melody; “Get Out Of Here With Me” displays impressive vocals. Yet the song, like most of the second half of the album, drags.  

By now, Kelly is aware of his position in R&B and in comedic entertainment. In The Buffet, he calls himself “the king of R&B” and references his own “I Believe I Can Fly.” Amid child pornography and statutory rape allegations, R. Kelly still expects listeners to line up and casually delight in what he calls “the freaky stuff.” Separating an artist’s life from the art is a task on its own, but said task becomes increasingly difficult when the art lacks cohesion and regresses to a mostly lackluster realm fixating on the  troubling subject in his life: sex.

When we do line up to The Buffet — or any R. Kelly project — we should acknowledge his own brand of problematics. No songs touch the shimmery gold of “Ignition – Remix.” After all, Kelly wants us to move on.

Contact Ariana Vargas at [email protected].