Double Up was the last R. Kelly CD that received heavy playback on my iPod. The CDs that followed were either too one dimensional or beneath his caliber for my taste. Ironically, R. Kelly got it right on 12 Nights of Christmas. The project is his 14th studio album, but his first full length Christmas album. The title alone is cause to snicker, as it brings to mind his breakthrough release, 12 Play. I was a bit skeptical of the music on his holiday CD. He surprised me with his new music though.
12 Night of Christmas features 12 original songs from R. Kelly. He opens the set with “My Wish for Christmas”, his plea to better the world and lift the spirits of the less fortunate. “Home for Christmas” is a smooth love song that sounds like classic R. Kelly. He details his plans to surprise the one he loves for the holidays. I can easily see this one being a big hit for the holiday season. He plays Santa Claus on “Mrs. Santa Claus”. R. Kelly croons here to the tune of “Me and Mrs. Jones” (originally performed by Billy Paul). He slyly requests to unwrap Mrs. Claus and then demands that she unwraps her present: him.
“I’m Sending You My Love For Christmas” is one many listeners (including myself) will surely repeat. This is one of the standout tracks and his tone is reminiscent of Stevie Wonder here. The delicate ballad “Once Upon A Time” sounds like an instant Christmas classic. He recounts all of the fun things like playing in the snow, exhibiting generosity and delicious treats during the holidays. R. Kelly knows how to show appreciation for his woman. On “The Greatest Gift”, he cleverly sites all of the reasons why his lady is the reason for his joy in the holiday season. The production on the song offers one of the more uptempo dance numbers. Think “Step In The Name Of Love” for Christmas.
“Christmas Lovin'” ushers in an old school, deeper soul vibe. He simply asks, “What about some Christmas lovin’ babe?” The lyrics are minimalist here, but rightfully so. This song showcases one of the many reasons R. Kelly’s music has spanned nearly three decades. He closes out the holiday CD with the mellow, yet poignant title track, “12 Days of Christmas”. This is the R. Kelly that has been missed. This is the R. Kelly that is arguably the most influential male R&B artist of the last 20 years or more.
Look for R. Kelly to go on tour in support of 12 Days of Christmas. However, he is only doing a small number of dates. So, if you live in Nashville, Brooklyn, Chicago Milwaukee or Minneapolis, you’re in luck. There’s no word yet on additional shows that may be added. Nonetheless, I’m hopeful that this is a symbol of a new era for R. Kelly. He doesn’t have to bow to the current trends of today’s music. Truth be told, he set many of them. At least we can raise our glasses of sparkling cider to a job well done for 12 Days of Christmas.