The Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald Isley, aka Mr. Biggs 

Body Kiss

Mr. Biggs is the alter ego of legendary R&B singer Ronald Isley, a character first developed in a series of R. Kelly videos. It's a persona designed to appeal to a generation that primarily knows Isley through rap songs that sample his past works. On the brothers' many hits -- "(Who's) That Lady?," "For the Love of You," "It's Your Thing" -- Ronald's high tenor evoked love, compassion, and tenderness. His voice is still capable of spine-tingling soul, but on Body Kiss (written, arranged, and produced by Kelly), the lyrics rarely rise above the clichéd. First single "What Would You Do" is a good example: Despite Mr. Biggs' plaintive urgings, the song's emphasis on materialistic values render it as spiritually empty as Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills."

"Busted," the album's best song, finds the pimped-out crooner putting his mack hand down. In soothing, almost gentle tones, he calmly interrogates his girlfriend (voiced by female duo JS) for coming home late. Even after catching her in a bold-faced lie, Mr. Biggs is cool as a cucumber. His mellifluous tones mask the seething anger he surely feels inside, even when he's demanding that she "pack her shit" and "get the fuck out." It's a fairly visual scene, one easy to picture, and certainly one many folks can relate to. But while the vocals rest on top of a highly infectious melody, the rest of Body Kiss basically repeats the same formulaic approach ad nauseam. Other tracks feature Lil' Kim (not exactly a paragon of virtue) and Kelly himself (ditto), who's billed for unexplained reasons as "the Pied Piper." Meanwhile, guitarist Ernie Isley -- a mean axe-slinger when given a chance -- has little to do but pose in outfits more suited to Christina Aguilera. Body Kiss might compare favorably to mindless urban contemporary radio fare, but it can't hold a candle to anything the Isleys did in the '60s or '70s.


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