He's the Pied Piper, the R in R&B, Kells, and now you can call Robert Kelly the "Weatherman." His forecast? "Sunshine, no signs of rain, blue skies." For the first half of his Happy People/ U Saved Me double LP, Kelly is at some of his most jubilant moments ever.
On the second disc, though, he's trying to weather the storm with the help of God.
With a sound unlike any of Kelly's previous efforts, Happy People is almost entirely geared toward getting people on the dance floor, stepping in the name of love and loving each other while doing it.
"Somebody touch somebody, tell somebody you love somebody," he commands on "Love Signals," which sounds like a throwback to the golden R&B of the '80s. At the end of the record, on "Happy People," just like he does on both versions of "Step in the Name of Love," Kelly gives directions for people on the dance floor.
He warns people that "when a track feels this good, I gotta break it down and do my thing," and he becomes the centerpiece of the record's dance motif, advising people to watch his feet while he steps. He says he wants to emit nothing but positive vibes, because people don't know how to love each other anymore and are "so doggone mean" for no reason at all.
Kelly also laments while dancing on "Love Street," which has a disco beat. "Seems we lost our touch, we used to be so in love/ Seems like we've gotten off track and never got it back," he sings. He says that we need to start love over, later admonishing, "We should all be ashamed of ourselves/ If we don't love ourselves, how can we love someone else?"
The Piper shows love to the paparazzi on "Red Carpet (Pause, Flash)." "Pause, flash, pause, flash," he sings, vocalizing the experience of a superstar walking the red carpet. "You know us," he says on the song. "We like to dress up and take a picture."
Even though stepping in the name of love dominates the feel of the album, Kelly slows it down on "The Greatest Show on Earth." While not as risqué as songs like "Thoia Thoing" or "Bump N' Grind," its title does make reference to his skills as a lover. He's not talking about clowns, flying acrobats or lion tamers.
"Can't wait till I hit the door," Kelly sings. "Can't wait till your clothes hit the floor/ I want you so bad/ You should know how I feel when it comes to making love."
He's not so sure of himself on U Saved Me's "3-Way Call Phone Call." The record feels more like a scene from a play than a song. Kelly plays Kelly Price's younger brother who has "lost his way." She tries to convince him to have faith, but hearing hesitance in his voice, Price calls her prayer partner, singer Kim Burrell. They both tell him to "stay strong with your head held high."
Kelly is absolutely sure of the Lord's powers on "How Did You Manage." The singer lists some of the wonders God has put forth, such as the making the sun, moon, seasons and mountains. What Kells is unsure of is why, despite all the sins he's committed, God still watches over him.
"Of all the miracles, there's still one mystery," he says. "After all I've done, Lord, how did you manage to forgive me?"
Fans of the bootlegged Love Land album who fell in love with another inspirational record, "Spirit," will be pleased to see that it is officially released here.
Kelly's Happy People/ U Saved Me will be in stores Tuesday. His current single and video is the second disc's title track.
For more on Kelly, check out the feature "Teflon Superstar."