Write Me Back
|Write Me Back|
|Studio album by R. Kelly|
|Released||June 25, 2012|
|Recorded||Sylvester Stone Studios, The Chocolate Factory, Chicago; MilkBoy The Studio, Philadelphia|
|R. Kelly chronology|
Deluxe edition artwork
|Singles from Write Me Back|
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.
At the end of his supporting tour for Love Letter, Kelly underwent emergency throat surgery in July 2011 to drain an abscess on one of his tonsils. 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. However, he deviated from that plan in January 2012 by announcing Write Me Back as his next album. He recorded the album at Sylvester Stone Studios and The Chocolate Factory in Chicago, and at MilkBoy The Studio in Philadelphia.
Music and lyrics
Write Me Back expands on its predecessor's traditional R&B aesthetic with 1970s influences, particularly Philadelphia soul and elements of Chicago stepping. Its title is a reference to that album's title. The music is also characterized by uptempo drum programming and smooth keyboard lines. 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." The album's primary subject matter is love, with exhortations about its redemptive power and its complications. 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."
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"Share My Love" is an uptempo song with Philadelphia soul-styled strings. It has a pop-R&B style similar to that of Michael Jackson's 1979 album Off the Wall. The song has a theme of romance and tongue-in-cheek lyrics: "Populate / Let's get together / Populate". "Green Light" has a quiet storm style and low-key mood. It is about a man wanting to please a woman who has a negligent boyfriend. "Feelin' Single" is about the "liminal sense of having checked out of a relationship and started looking around for escape routes." 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."
"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. Miles Marshall Lewis views that the song "embod[ies] elements of the (oft-downtrodden) blue-collar African-American experience." "Lady Sunday" is a dance-oriented, orchestrated song with musical similarities to early 1970s Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. "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. Deviating from the album's 1970s influence, "All Rounds on Me" has rockabilly elements and an alternating blues arrangement.
Release and promotion
The album was released by RCA Records on June 25, 2012, in the United Kingdom and on June 26 in the United States. It is his first album for RCA, after RCA Music Group shut down Kelly's former label Jive Records. The album's deluxe edition included four additional songs.
The album's lead single, "Share My Love", was released on February 1 and became a number-one hit on urban adult radio. It peaked at number 13 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, on which it has charted for 20 weeks. It also charted at number 72 on the Japan Hot 100. The second single, "Feelin' Single", was released as a digital download on May 29. It reached number 43 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
On June 27, Kelly became ill from complications related to his 2011 throat surgery. Consequently, his promotional appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Today were cancelled. Although his status for subsequent promotional efforts was uncertain, Kelly performed at Reggae Sumfest on July 20, and performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon after rescheduling for July 23. "When a Man Lies" later impacted urban adult radio as the album's third and final single on October 15.
In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number 80 on the UK Albums Chart in the week of July 7, 2012. In the United States, Write Me Back debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, selling 68,000 copies in its first week. It was Kelly's lowest first-week sales since 12 Play in 1993. The album sold 24,600 copies in its second week on the chart, falling 14 spots to #19. It ultimately charted for 17 weeks on the Billboard 200. As of August 15, 2012, it has sold 253,000 copies in the US.
|Los Angeles Times|||
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. 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." Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone called its music "virtuoso pastiche – but Kelly's Seventies are freakier than your dad's." 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." 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."
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". 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." 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." 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."
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." 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." 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." 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." Spin ranked Write Me Back number 37 on their list of 2012's best albums.
|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|
|Deluxe edition bonus tracks|
|13.||"Beautiful in This Mirror"||Kelly||R. Kelly||3:29|
|14.||"You Are My World"||Kelly||R. Kelly||3:19|
|15.||"Fallin' from the Sky"||Kelly, Dennis-Manuel Peters, Daniel Coriglie, Mario Bakovic||R. Kelly, T-Town Productions||3:56|
|16.||"One Step Closer"||Kelly||R. Kelly||6:00|
Credits for Write Me Back adapted from liner notes.
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