R Kelly Happy People/You Saved Me Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Happy People treads a dangerous line between being likeable soul and copying classics...

Jack Smith 2003

To listen to the first disc of this double album, you need a polished wooden floor to sashay across, before draping yourself onto a sheepskin rug with a glass of the old bubbly. It aspires to be classic 'Ladies' Night' material. By the end of the second CD you'll be ready for a dose of thrash metal, some light relief after the endless 'Lord, you saved me' ballads you will have endured.

Happy People treads a dangerous line between being likeable soul and copying classics which do the job better. The title track breaks down into Stevie Wonder's "Do I Do", and I had to check that "The Diary Of Me" did not actually feature the man himself. Kelly does name check Marvin Gaye and Frankie Beverly, just as well because you can hear their music a mile away on this album.

That said, there are some fine moments here. "Love Street" stands out as a crunchy groover. "Ladies Night (Treat Her Like Heaven)" brings out the best in his voice and "The Greatest Show On Earth" is pure bedroom bliss; 'Let's get on this plane of love....our destination is wherever your spot is, baby.' Need we say more?

It's difficult to review R Kelly without mentioning the recent charges of child pornography against him, especially when you listen to the Christian fervor of the U Saved Me disc. "Peace" stands out, though not for its lyrics or title, with its African harmonies and percussive flavour. But the rest of the disc congeals into one song at one tempo. It can be described in one word, but I won't use it here.

R Kelly's work can lean to the smooth and superficial side, but listen to any of the tunes on Happy People in a club or bar and you'll be convinced it's an old one you used to love.Which is no bad thing in itself. As for U Saved Me, I think I've already said enough.

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