Controversial prince of RnB R. Kelly isn’t one for subtlety, from his 33-part “hip hopera” Trapped in the Closet to 2013’s awkwardly titled album Black Panties. His newest release, The Buffet, offers a surprisingly cohesive, listenable collection of tracks rich with the artist’s signature outlandish lyrics.
From the outset, Kelly has his tongue planted firmly in cheek. Opening track The Poem presents a spoken-word introduction to the album which features some heavy-handed double entendres (“I’m talking my jelly and your pastry”) and also sees Kelly produce possibly one of the most cringe-inducing slurps ever recorded. From there on in, things only get more strange: track Marching Band features some hilarious, if unflattering, sexual metaphors, while Backyard Party is a finger-snapping ode to the classic summer barbecue party. Elsewhere, spunky track Let’s Be Real Now sees Kelly and guest artist Tinashe narrate either side of a messy breakup through some impressively acrobatic vocals, while Wanna Be There, an unexpectedly wrenching duet with daughter Ariiraye, delivers a total reversal in tone for the album as Kelly swaps out the double entendres in order to lament the relationship the two never had.
The Buffet is a curious mixture of sleaziness and the odd heartfelt moment, but what’s most surprising is that Kelly actually manages to pull it off. It’s not romantic by any stretch of the imagination but Kelly’s inherent sense of glee is palpable throughout, and the production is well-polished and creative, as slinky beats and sparse, cavernous synths allow for Kelly’s seductive voice to fittingly take centre stage. Erotic? No way. But entertaining? Definitely.