Write Me Back

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Write Me Back
Studio album by R. Kelly
Released June 25, 2012
Recorded Sylvester Stone Studios, The Chocolate Factory, Chicago; MilkBoy The Studio, Philadelphia
Genre R&B, soul
Length 46:20
Label RCA
Producer R. Kelly
R. Kelly chronology
Love Letter
(2010)
Write Me Back
(2012)
Black Panties
(2013)
Alternative Cover
Deluxe edition artwork
Singles from Write Me Back
  1. "Share My Love"
    Released: February 1, 2012 (2012-02-01)
  2. "Feelin' Single"
    Released: May 29, 2012 (2012-05-29)
  3. "When a Man Lies"
    Released: October 15, 2012 (2012-10-15)

Write Me Back is the eleventh studio album by American R&B recording artist R. Kelly, released on June 25, 2012, by RCA Records. It was written and produced primarily by Kelly as the follow-up to his 2010 album Love Letter. He recorded Write Me Back at Sylvester Stone Studios and The Chocolate Factory in Chicago, and at MilkBoy The Studio in Philadelphia. It expands on its predecessor's traditional R&B aesthetic and incorporates musical influences such as Philadelphia soul and elements of Chicago stepping. Thematically, the album generally deals with love, its redemptive power, and its complications.

The album debuted at number five on the US Billboard 200, selling 68,000 copies in its first week, and ultimately spent 17 weeks on the chart. It was promoted with three singles—"Share My Love", "Feelin' Single" and "When a Man Lies". Upon its release, Write Me Back received generally positive reviews from music critics, who complimented its music and Kelly's singing. As of August 15, 2012, it has sold 141,300 copies in the United States.

Background[edit]

At the end of his supporting tour for Love Letter,[1] Kelly underwent emergency throat surgery in July 2011 to drain an abscess on one of his tonsils.[2] He recovered, and in August, announced that his next album will be called Black Panties, a sexually charged album in the same vein of his 1993 debut album, 12 Play.[3] However, he deviated from that plan in January 2012 by announcing Write Me Back as his next album.[3] He recorded the album at Sylvester Stone Studios and The Chocolate Factory in Chicago, and at MilkBoy The Studio in Philadelphia.[4]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Write Me Back expands on its predecessor's traditional R&B aesthetic with 1970s influences,[5][6] particularly Philadelphia soul and elements of Chicago stepping.[7][8][9] Its title is a reference to that album's title.[10] The music is also characterized by uptempo drum programming and smooth keyboard lines.[11] Nitush Abebe of New York observes "frictionless glide and delicacy, all the strings and horns caressing around the margins, of late-seventies Philly soul greats and Quincy Jones productions."[12] The album's primary subject matter is love, with exhortations about its redemptive power and its complications.[12] Abebe writes of this theme, "There's love as inspiration and redemption, love as strangled by manipulative men or undercommitted women, love as universal party, love as rotted from the inside by apathy or envy."[12]

Songs[edit]

The song is a kiss-off by the narrator to his increasingly uninterested lover.[13] Its chord progression is sampled from Bill Withers' 1977 song "Lovely Day".[11]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Share My Love" is an uptempo song with Philadelphia soul-styled strings.[3][14] It has a pop-R&B style similar to that of Michael Jackson's 1979 album Off the Wall.[15] The song has a theme of romance and tongue-in-cheek lyrics: "Populate / Let's get together / Populate".[3] "Green Light" has a quiet storm style and low-key mood.[16] It is about a man wanting to please a woman who has a negligent boyfriend.[12] "Feelin' Single" is about the "liminal sense of having checked out of a relationship and started looking around for escape routes."[12] Kelly sings in a high register on the song, which Greg Kot views "evok[es] the boyish innocence of a Michael Jackson over a stepping dance groove accented with finger snaps."[17]

"Believe in Me" is told from the perspective of a lover about to leave his woman for a prison term and asks for patience and support.[12][15] Miles Marshall Lewis views that the song "embod[ies] elements of the (oft-downtrodden) blue-collar African-American experience."[15] "Lady Sunday" is a dance-oriented, orchestrated song with musical similarities to early 1970s Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.[17] "Believe That It's So" features disco strings, assertive brass, and a narrative that celebrates love's ability to help people overcome adversity before celebrating celebration in general, as Kelly sings about becoming drunk and needing to draw on love to overcome his impending hangover.[13] Deviating from the album's 1970s influence, "All Rounds on Me" has rockabilly elements and an alternating blues arrangement.[15]

Release and promotion[edit]

The album was released by RCA Records on June 25, 2012, in the United Kingdom and on June 26 in the United States.[5][18] It is his first album for RCA, after RCA Music Group shut down Kelly's former label Jive Records.[19] The album's deluxe edition included four additional songs.[20]

The album's lead single, "Share My Love", was released on February 1 and became a number-one hit on urban adult radio.[3][10] It peaked at number 13 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, on which it has charted for 20 weeks.[21] It also charted at number 72 on the Japan Hot 100.[21] The second single, "Feelin' Single", was released as a digital download on May 29.[10] It reached number 43 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.[22]

On June 27, Kelly became ill from complications related to his 2011 throat surgery.[23] Consequently, his promotional appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Today were cancelled.[23] Although his status for subsequent promotional efforts was uncertain,[23] Kelly performed at Reggae Sumfest on July 20,[24] and performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon after rescheduling for July 23.[25] "When a Man Lies" later impacted urban adult radio as the album's third and final single on October 15.[26]

Reception[edit]

Commercial performance[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number 80 on the UK Albums Chart in the week of July 7, 2012.[27] In the United States, Write Me Back debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, selling 68,000 copies in its first week.[28] It was Kelly's lowest first-week sales since 12 Play in 1993.[28] The album sold 24,600 copies in its second week on the chart, falling 14 spots to #19.[29] It ultimately charted for 17 weeks on the Billboard 200.[30] As of August 15, 2012, it has sold 253,000 copies in the US.[31]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[6]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars[17]
Entertainment Weekly A–[32]
The Independent 4/5 stars[7]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[33]
NME 6/10[8]
Pitchfork Media 6.5/10[16]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[34]
Slant Magazine 2/5 stars[11]
Spin 7/10[15]

Write Me Back received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 73, based on 18 reviews.[35] August Brown of the Los Angeles Times dubbed it "the best grown-man dance record of the year" and stated, "the songwriting is, per usual at this point in his career, nimble and nicely matured. But the arrangements are the centerpiece here."[33] Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone called its music "virtuoso pastiche – but Kelly's Seventies are freakier than your dad's."[34] Maura Johnston of The Village Voice viewed "Clipped Wings" as its strongest track and compared the album to Love Letter, stating "it's slightly less drenched in retro tropes, but it's no less of an enjoyable listen."[13] Miles Marshall Lewis of Spin felt that "the result distills the melodies and lyrical flair fans love without the NC-17 lines that often make Kelly NSFW."[15]

Andy Gill of The Independent found Kelly "even more at home" musically than on Love Letter and stated, "for all his production skills, he remains first and foremost a vocal stylist of considerable ability".[7] Thomas Conner of the Chicago Sun-Times complimented Kelly's "superb voice" and noted the Philadelphia soul influence as "a much more natural fit for Kelly's considerable vocal gifts and lusty one-track mind."[36] Allmusic's Andy Kellman complimented the music's "warmth and joy" and stated, "It's apparent that he can be retro and urbane as instinctively as he can be cutting edge and filthy."[6] Nitsuh Abebe of New York commended Kelly for "nailing each voice and narrative" and stated, "He comes at every idea like an impassioned pro, and whether that idea is making people melt, grind, or titter in disbelief, it’s usually his ardor that’s having that effect."[12]

In a mixed review, Jon Caramanica of The New York Times dubbed the album Kelly's "least ambitious" and found it "tepid" by his standards, "which is to say, completely technically accomplished, but lacking the snakelike vocal slither and moist subject matter that mark him at his most virtuosic."[9] Slant Magazine's Eric Henderson panned its music as "this-porridge-is-just-right uptempo mush" and questioned its genuineness, writing that "even if the songs sound like the height of artifice ... there's little doubt [Kelly] believes in his own hollow offerings."[11] Pitchfork Media's Jess Harvell observed "a fine line between breezy and half-assed" in the songwriting and criticized its "cut-rate production choices" behind "Kelly's engaged vocal performances."[16] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune called it "a less-consistently strong sequel" and stated, "Listeners may find themselves toggling between questioning Kelly’s sincerity and admiring his facility as a producer and singer."[17] Spin ranked Write Me Back number 37 on their list of 2012's best albums.[37]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Love Is"   Robert Kelly R. Kelly 3:30
2. "Feelin' Single"   Kelly, Dorrell Mays, Skip Scarborough, Bill Withers R. Kelly, Bigg Makk 3:29
3. "Lady Sunday"   Kelly R. Kelly 3:37
4. "When a Man Lies"   Kelly R. Kelly 3:36
5. "Clipped Wings"   Kelly, Campbell R. Kelly, Warryn Campbell 3:18
6. "Believe That It's So"   Kelly R. Kelly 6:09
7. "Fool for You"   Kelly R. Kelly 3:37
8. "All Rounds on Me"   Kelly, Mays R. Kelly, Bigg Makk 4:13
9. "Believe in Me"   Kelly R. Kelly, J. LBS 3:55
10. "Green Light"   Kelly R. Kelly 3:52
11. "Party Jumpin'"   Kelly R. Kelly 3:17
12. "Share My Love"   Kelly R. Kelly 3:43
Total length:
46:20

Personnel[edit]

Credits for Write Me Back adapted from liner notes.[38]

Charts[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Markman, Rob. "R. Kelly's Upcoming Black Panties Will Be 'The New 12 Play'". MTV News. MTV. Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (July 20, 2011). "R. Kelly Undergoes Emergency Throat Surgery". MTV News. MTV. Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Krishnamurthy, Sowmya. "RapFix – R. Kelly Gets Nostalgic On New Single ‘Share My Love’". MTV News. MTV. Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  4. ^ "R Kelly - Write Me Back CD Album". CD Universe. Muze. Retrieved November 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Kennedy, Gerrick D. (May 15, 2012). "R. Kelly to release 'Write Me Back' on June 26". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Kellman, Andy. "Write Me Back - R. Kelly". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Gill, Andy (June 23, 2012). "Album: R. Kelly, Write Me Back (RCA)". The Independent (London: Independent Print Limited). Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Nicolson, Barry (June 22, 2012). "R Kelly - 'Write Me Back'". NME (IPC Media). Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Caramanica, Jon (July 1, 2012). "Sifting Through Songs For the Man Underneath". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). p. AR17. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c Lipshutz, Jason (May 15, 2012). "R. Kelly Returns: 'Write Me Back' Due in June". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d Henderson, Eric (June 28, 2012). "R. Kelly: Write Me Back". Slant Magazine. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Abebe, Nitsuh (June 27, 2012). "Music Review: Abebe on Write Me Back and the Multifaceted R. Kelly". New York (New York Media). Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c Johnston, Maura (June 26, 2012). "R. Kelly's Write Me Back Rides The Retro Soulacoaster". The Village Voice Blogs. Village Voice Media. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Audio: R. Kelly’s New Single ‘Share My Love’". EURweb. February 1, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f Lewis, Miles Marshall (June 28, 2012). "R. Kelly, 'Write Me Back' (RCA)". Spin (New York: Spin Media). Retrieved July 13, 2012. 
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  17. ^ a b c d Kot, Greg (June 25, 2012). "R. Kelly album review; Write Me Back album review". Chicago Tribune (Chicago: Tribune Company). Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
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  22. ^ "R. Kelly Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
  23. ^ a b c "R Kelly sick, missing promos for new album, book". NewsgroupPress Associated Press. June 27, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  24. ^ "R. Kelly Confirmed For Reggae Sumfest 2012!". Zomba Recordings. June 20, 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Watch: R. Kelly Does 'Feelin' Single' On Fallon". Prefix. July 24, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Urban/UAC Future Releases" (image file). All Access Music Group. Archived from the original on October 31, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
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  28. ^ a b Caulfield, Keith (July 4, 2012). "Linkin Park Squeaks By Maroon 5, Hits No. 1 on Billboard 200". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved July 5, 2012. 
  29. ^ Langhorne, Cyrus (July 11, 2012). "Chris Brown Finds Fortune At No. 1, Rick Ross Departs Top 10, Flo Rida & Wishin Y Yandel Invade The Chart". SOHH. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  30. ^ a b c "Write Me Back - R. Kelly". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved July 5, 2012. 
  31. ^ http://www.hitsdailydouble.com/sales/sales_ur.cgiLanghorne, Cyrus (August 15, 2012). "Rick Ross Loses His No. 1 Spot, Nas Moves Outside Top 10, Frank Ocean Channels Into Top 20". SOHH. Retrieved November 17, 2012. 
  32. ^ Anderson, Kyle (June 29, 2012). "Write Me Back Review". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time, Inc.) (1213). Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
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  34. ^ a b Rosen, Jody (June 26, 2012). "Write Me Back". Rolling Stone (Jann S. Wenner). Retrieved June 26, 2012. 
  35. ^ "Write Me Back Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 26, 2012. 
  36. ^ Conner, Thomas (June 25, 2012). "Review: R. Kelly, 'Write Me Back'". Chicago Sun-Times (Sun-Times Media). Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
  37. ^ Johnston, Maura. "SPIN's 50 Best Albums of 2012". Spin (New York). Retrieved December 19, 2012. 
  38. ^ Write Me Back (CD liner). R. Kelly. RCA Records. 2012. 88691948162. 
  39. ^ "Discography". Jarred Antonacci. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
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  43. ^ "R&B Albums Top 40 - 7th July 2012". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
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  45. ^ http://www.billboard.com/charts/year-end/2013/top-r-b-hip-hop-albums?page=7

External links[edit]