R. Kelly is a mystery to me. And I'm not even talking about his penchant for young girls. That's not even germane to the discussion...or maybe it is. We'll see. what I'm talking about is the fact that he is actually a pretty good songwriter. "You Are Not Alone" was a great song. It was the best thing on whatever album Michael Jackson sang it. I can't think of something more recent, but it seems to me that R. Kelly writes good songs and then gives them to other people. When he writes raunchy crap like "Ignition" and "Feeling On Your Booty," he keeps it for himself. That's weird. But to put all this R. Kelly business in some sort of perspective, would Marvin Gaye have the following that he has if people knew the details of his life? If you're interested, Divided Soul ,by David Ritz, is a good primer. But suffice it to say that Marvin Gaye had a whooole lot goin' on that would get him a whooole lotta negative press in 2004. I don't think that necessarily takes anything away from his work, though. "What's Goin' On" was a work of genius, no matter what he did when he wasn't in the studio. R. Kelly, on the other hand, while he may think he's like Marvin Gaye, is nowhere near close. A lot of artists compare themselves to Marvin because he made songs with fairly explicit sexual content. That point, I cannot argue. However, they can't sing like Marvin, and that's where the difference lies. Marvin Gaye could sing. Especially earlier, before the effects of hard living had taken their toll. Generally speaking, I'm more for pointing out who can't sing than who can, but I will say that Marvin Gaye probably had the best male voice of the 20th century. He had a nice natural tenor and he could do a fantastic falsetto; he definitely had the tools. These cats nowadays know how to do the "tricks" of singing, but they don't have the solid foundation. Remember, Marving Gaye started out with the intention of being "the Black Frank Sinatra." These singers start out trying to be a freakier Marvin Gaye. One area where I don't rate Marvin so high is in his songwriting. He wrote some great songs, but some others he didn't write. On the album "I Want You," for instance, Leon Ware wrote and produced most of the songs. That doesn't take anything away from Marvin, but it doesn't keep him in the company of Stevie Wonder when it comes to writing. I remember looking at the IB a few years ago and VH1 was doing a show about Lionel Richie. I don't remember who was speaking, it might have been Kenny Rogers, but he said, "Lionel Richie writes songs that women want to hear and men wish they could say." I agreed to an extent, but I didn't think Lionel Richie was the best example of that. To be sure, Lionel has some great songs under his belt, and he definitely says things that women want to hear in a way that most men wouldn't think is over the top. Unlike, say, Babyface, who writes things that women want to hear that no man in his natural mind would even conceive of uttering. However, Stevie tops both of them. Or perhaps Stevie writes songs that men would like to say that women want to hear. To me, this is the genius of Stevie's songwriting; his songs seem like they could come out of your mouth; like if you sat down to write something for your partner, you would have made up something like that after a few edits. In the back of your mind, you may know that you couldn't have done it, but it's accessible enough to make you think you could have. The best examples, or at least the ones that come to mind right now are on "Songs In the Key of Life" (which is, by the way, the standard by which double albums should be measured. But I'll write about Songs In The Key of Life soon.) From Knocks Me Off My Feet:
I see us in the park/ strolling the summer days of imaginings in my head. and words from our heart/told only to the wind, felt even without being said
I knew that was hot when I was in 3rd grade. (Yes I did copy that piece and give it to the little girl I liked at the time. Not that it did me any good, but that's another story.) What's more, I could relate to it. what, I liked to go to the park and walk around. And even then I knew you couldn't necessarily say everything you thought. As I think about it, that seems to be a recurring theme in Stevie's love songs, expressing the inability to fully express feelings; that's why I think most men can relate to his songs. That, and the fact that they're simple. From As,
As around the sun the earth still keeps revolving and the rosebuds know to bloom in early May Just as hate knows love's a cure, you can rest your mind assured that I'll be loving you always Now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow, but in passing we'll grow older every day Just as all that's born is new, you know what I say is true, that I'll be loving you always.
That's feasible. It's not all talking in flowery language, it's talking about things a guy would know about. Even though a regular dude might not think to use these observations to express affection, it seems like he could. He can think, "That's what I would say." For instance, the first track on "Music of My Mind" is "I Love Having You Around." Simple. There are no gushy effusions of romantic sentiment, just straight, honest lyrics. And then he closes it out with what I think is the epitome of honest love-talk from a man, "I need you each and every day, so keep your black butt here." That's truth right there. A man would definitely say that to his woman. I know I have. And sometimes, she's even glad to hear it.