R. Kelly 

Happy People/U Saved Me

When R. Kelly was charged with a laundry list of talk-show-ready felonies in 2002, it briefly appeared as though he might quietly fade into oblivion. But then he made one of the most remarkable comebacks in music history, zipping right past Michael Jackson as the most popular alleged pedophile currently singing pop music. R. Kelly has softened public outcry over his alleged misdeeds by churning out salacious groove after groove, in the hopes that your potential moral misgivings might be overcome by your primordial need to shake your ass. With his latest offering, a two-disc set divided between catchy dance tunes and God-fearing slow jams, he has produced arguably his best album to date, and easily one of the best ever made under substantial duress.

Happy People, essentially a collection of successfully formulaic Chicago steppers' tunes, can be listened to straight through. Channeling Marvin Gaye, Kelly transcends sentimentality on the silky smooth "If I Could Make the World Dance," while doing what he does best (being derivative) on "Happy People," essentially a thinly veiled repackaging of his 2003 hit "Step in the Name of Love." Standout tracks on U Saved Me include "How Did You Manage" -- a powerful celebration of the creative power of God -- and "Peace," a touchy-feely gospel-infused tune that represents Kelly's first foray into the fuzzy terrain of world music.

The now-familiar dilemma --whether to let your love of good music trump your disinterest in supporting a possible sexual offender -- remains with Happy People/U Saved Me, but if you buy Kelly's pitch that he has been "saved," then you won't regret buying this either.

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