By Huajun Sun
Just like clockwork, you can always depend on R. Kelly to deliver an album every year. And for the veteran R’nB crooner, who has already released a mixtape and a studio album over the last 12 months, 2010 is no exception. In fact, he promised to release a trilogy before the end of the year, with the first of these, Epic, already hitting the shelves. And no description other its title would do this album any justice.
The 12-tracked album features six unreleased tracks, including Sign of a Victory, which was the official anthem of this year’s FIFA World Cup. This is followed by the album’s unofficial single, I Believe, which was inspired by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Other notable new materials include Fireworks, in which R. Kelly speaks about overcoming his personal struggles, and Can You Feel It, which has an upbeat tempo that just balances out the soul/ballad mood of the rest of the album.
However, it’s the inclusion of some of his classic hits that really defines what this album is all about. The World’s Greatest and I Believe I Can Fly are among the most recognisable film soundtracks for their inspirational qualities. Accompanying the uplifting songs are two ballads for the ladies, If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time and the classic duet with Céline Dion I’m Your Angel; while Peace and Spirit from U Saved Me (2004) should also be familiar to R. Kelly fans.
Because of the inclusion of some inspiring and mood-lifting songs, Epic is sure to go down well whether the times are good or bad. It’s a CD you can listen to right after you have written that accounting paper that you know you have failed, but it works just as well if you know you just aced it. In addition to the purpose of themed music, R. Kelly’s vocal performance is incredible as usual, as he displays his rare vocal range and a voice manipulation that has only improved with age. Combine this with his song writing skill that has been harnessed at writing motivational songs for nearly two decades, you have an album that is very easy on the ears and fit any occasion.
Of course, the album is not without criticism. While the selection of some classics may be welcome to those who just want another excuse to listen to them, others will argue that R. Kelly is really just short on new materials. Some of the productions (the album was entirely self-produced) seemed rushed too. Perhaps he did need a bit more time, considering that he has been touring the majority of the year, in addition to performing at the World Cup ceremonies, and that he is working on two other albums (Zodiac and Love Letter) simultaneously. A couple more new tracks would have rounded it off and made it sound more like an album, rather than a greatest hits compilation.
All in all, Epic is an aspiring album that serves to remind us why R. Kelly is still one of best in the business after so many years at the top. While his fans will need no second invitation to add this album to their collection, it is also recommended to anyone who is not familiar with R. Kelly’s music, as this will serve as an epic introduction.