R. Kelly

The R. in R&B Collection, Vol. 1

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Creatively, R. Kelly came a long way since 1992. The Chicago singer started out his career with catchy, if conventional, new jack swing, but as the '90s progressed, he evolved into one of more interesting, risk-taking male singers in urban contemporary and neo-soul. It would be a stretch to say that Kelly is in a class with Al Green, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, or Marvin Gaye -- he's a product of a different generation and a different era, and he needs to be evaluated on his own hip-hop-minded terms rather than '60s or '70s terms (even though he has plenty of '60s and '70s influences). But it's no exaggeration to say that some of Kelly's work has been excellent, including many of the songs on The R. in R&B Collection, Vol. 1 -- a best-of release that paints a generally favorable picture of the Chicagoan by focusing on his more essential recordings. Many of Kelly's well-known hits are provided, and they range from "You Remind Me of Something" and "Bump n' Grind" to "I Believe I Can Fly," "Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)," and "I'm Your Angel" (the singer's unlikely duet with Celine Dion). Spanning 1992-2003, the collection shows how much Kelly evolved during that 11-year period. The thing that ties many of these songs together -- from the Guy-ish new jack swing number "She's Got That Vibe" in 1992 to "Fiesta" in 2000 -- is hip-hop, which has always been an integral part of the singer's output. Vol. 1 isn't the last word on Kelly's output; some major hits are missing, and the Vol. 1 part of the title implies that a Vol. 2 is needed. But for the novice or casual listener who wants to have many of Kelly's hits in the same place, Vol. 1 serves its purpose nicely.

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