This album is actually supposed to be quite different from his previous ones, filled with more soul and classic influences (hence to Ray throwback cover?). He's channelling everyone from Ray Charles, to Michael Jackson, to Stevie Wonder, so let's see what we've got going on here.
In true stylish R. Kelly style, we kick off with "Love Letter Prelude," a simple a cappella message to the ladies to one and all, no matter how he's crossed paths with them.
Then we get into the actual song, "Love Letter." Aside from those little improved la-la-las at the beginning, the songs's actually got a pretty decent beat and harp sound harking a little throughout it. It's actually a pretty cute song, reaching out and trying to get her. There's a definite old-school influence to the music, including the brass section.
"Number One Hit" sounds like a 90's throwback a little bit, just with that weird little guitar floating sound. You can tell, however, that he is making that effort to make things less about sex and more about love. The album has already been more tolerable to listen to than previous ones, just because you don't feel dirty after one song. He's got a really nice voice, so this is a good change.
Oh we most definitely have a Michael inspiration going on for "Not Feelin' The Love." This is probably where I'm going to get told that I don't "know" classic R&B well enough to have an opinion, but regardless, I know what I like, and this was never it. I have respect for the song - it's got some really good rhythms and uses of instruments there, but this is not a style that hits well with me. I know, I wouldn't have done well in the 80's.
"Lost In Love" has some of those Ray influences, just a little, with the use of vocals, and even some piano that carries the song as a whole. It gets less noticeable as the song goes on, but it's there. There's something much more calm about this track than the others, though the whispered words about halfway through make you roll your eyes. Just keep signing man - you don't keep the weird seductive techniques.
Ah, you didn't think he could avoid sexual songs for an entire album, did you? As cool as the throwback styles are, R's got to be R, as he shows in "Just Can't Get Enough." It's okay man, I won't fault you for it. He goes about it in a sort of sweet way, at least musically.
"Taxi Cab" comes in with this cool bongo beat and a guitar line that screams of the city. And then this like... piano part comes in? Whew, musically, I am loving this song completely. It's different in each section, but is so fantastic. Now, lyrically, there's something to be desired. I would rather hear this as an instrumental number.
Here's the video for "Radio Message":
We're following that right up with the video for "When A Woman Loves."
"Love Is" sounds just like something right out of the 60's, and features K. Michelle. It's freaking adorable. Seriously, I haven't heard something like this in quite some time. It's fun and upbeat, and the lyrics stay so clean, I can't believe this is who I'm listening to. Really an impressive attempt by him to do something completely different.
There's definitely this unique melding of styles for "Just Like That." Stick with what I'm personally hearing here - it's like a song produced in the 90s, but with elements of Michael Jackson's early work, and some 70's disco influence. And there's a horns section. Yup, this song is unique.
"Music Must Be A Lady" is one of those that you want to like right from the title. It swells with this classic orchestra sound at the beginning. Then you get this very soulful pouring out of voice for the song itself. There's just a little bit of weird autotune on the background "ohs" from time to time. It kind of drags, but it's almost appropriate to his purposes.
We get, essentially, the same song, but with Christmas themed lyrics for "A Love Letter Christmas." I like that he put a Christmas spin on the whole thing - even upping the brass section a little bit to fit the season. Really nicely done. Oh, and there's this cute rap and dance break toward the end. Nice Christmas party music.
"How Do I Tell Her?" is another one that I really like musically. I don't enjoy his singing entirely o this one, because he does this weird staccato thing and drops off at the end of a whole bunch of words. This is a truly tortured song, because how do you go about breaking someone's heart?
And finally, we have "Bonus Track." Seriously, that's the name of it. And it's a cover of a Michael Jackson song, actually, one of my favorites! "You Are Not Alone." Yes, the one from Free Willy. Shut it. I love this song. R. Kelly takes up the beat a little more, and his voice is just different enough to be noticeable from Michael's, but he does a great job.
If you're interested, here's the full album listening link on Spotify. And as always, let me know your thoughts!