Double Up is a maddeningly inconsistent collection, with more misses than hits – though Kelly’s best moments do go some way towards atoning for his flaws.
R. Kelly is a frustrating fellow. He spreads his gifts too thinly, and for this reason, his albums have rarely elicited a particularly enthusiastic response. He'll pop up with a single-of-the-year contender every now and then, providing a timely reminder of his gifts as a producer and writer, but it would be foolish to expect the standard to be maintained.
There are 19 tracks on Double Up, and its duration stretches past the 75-minute mark – not a particularly promising sign, given Kelly’s previous track record (I’m still referring to music here, of course). And so it proves: this is a maddeningly inconsistent collection, with more misses than hits – though Kelly’s best moments do go some way towards atoning for his flaws.
Opener/intro ‘The Champ’ is a masterpiece of slow-building tension with no release: the listener waits fruitlessly for a beat to kick in, while Kelly unleashes a hail of boasts and braggadocio, strings soaring and swooping all around him.
Naturally, we must wait until the record’s 10th track for this standard to be matched. On the twinkling R&B ballad ‘Real Talk’, R. Kelly doth protest too much, as he unleashes a staggering level of vitriol upon his long-term female partner, for having the temerity to believe stories of his nightclub philandering. The self-righteousness is ill advised (given that almost every other song on the album documents Kelly’s night-club philandering in vivid detail) but the track, it must be said, is fabulous.
‘Rock Star’ smartly places a prowling guitar riff atop a slow, snaking R&B groove, and uses Ludacris’ deep, macho delivery to good effect. ‘Rollin’’ is dark and syrup-thick, with a wonderful skittering beat.
None of the remaining tracks are worth more than a solitary listen, but hey, at least an inconsistent R. Kelly album can no longer be termed a “disappointment”, as we have come to expect nothing more.