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R. Kelly
CHOCOLATE FACTORY
(JIVE)

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R&B superstar R. Kelly’s fifth album should be a hands-down triumph. But not only does it come on the heels of his indictment on 21 counts of child pornography, it was also mostly recorded following his arrest on those charges last year. The unfortunate result is that much of Kelly’s explicitly sexual gameplaying takes on secondary meanings, suggesting unwelcome and unwholesome images of a playboy who prefers his women under the legal limit.

On " Ignition Remix, " for example, there’s some awkward business about spewing " venom " into a lady’s " trunk. " And on " You Made Me Love You, " which finds him delivering some convincing Al Green–style soul singing, he leers, " You must be one of them top models/Body curved like a pop bottle/Got me sweating like a boxer, baby. " Kelly has always had a gift for injecting the sacred with the profane, and his predilection for young women has been rumored for years. But his arrest makes listening to a track like the operatic " Showdown, " the latest installment of his mano-a-mano song cycle with Ronald Isley, uncomfortable. The saddest part is that nobody else in contemporary pop has his talent when it comes to recording smooth, sensual slowdances and steamy R&B workouts. Chocolate Factory isn’t a bad album, it’s just a difficult one to listen to. And that’s a shame

BY JON CARAMANICA

Issue Date: March 20 - 27, 2003
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