R. Kelly
U Saved Me

Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in all of music and pop culture is R. Kelly. From controversial circumstances to questionable lyrics, Kelly's name has often been linked to some of the less desirable ethical commentary in recent memory.

Yet in the midst of that, the author of songs such as "12 Play" is also the author of inspirational classics like "I Believe I Can Fly".

Fast forward to 2004 where Kelly has released his latest project. This double-disc is titled Happy People/U Saved Me. The first disc is an R&B offering with perhaps his cleanestCD secular offering to date. Equally, if not more notable is the second disc, a distinctly inspirational offering. Truth be told, this may be Gospel music at its finest. Brace yourself...this isn't the R. Kelly that you're used to.

This 10-track offering shows Kelly as transparent as any artist out there. As you listen to the project, the message from Kelly's heart screams far louder than any image that's ever been portrayed of him.

The project begins with the instant classic "3-Way Phone Call", which features Maurice Mahon, Kelly Price, and the incomparable Kim Burrell. Kelly receives a call from Price and they exchange pleasantries. More importantly, they speak candidly about Kelly's struggles and Price offers Christ as the solution. Burrell comes in as Price's "prayer buddy" and offers hope to Kelly. By the end of this seven-minute track, Price and Burrell give an invitation to Christ to Kelly and he accepts. Listening to the conversation, there's no denying the power of Christ on this track.

The title track is the leadoff radio single, and serves as a great testimony to God's power to rescue from any adverse circumstance those who believe in Him.

Editorial: Jesus Walks
CD What's happening here? Are Kanye West and R. Kelly qualified to let the Gospel message come out of their mouths? Since Mase is a pastor, shouldn't he use his skills to enhance the holy hip hop game? What's really going on here....

See full editorial.

Another powerful track is "I Surrender", where Kelly admonishes listeners to surrender their will to the will of Christ. This is really a worship song that speaks of total submission to Christ's design for our lives. "Diary of Me" has a significant Stevie Wonder vibe, with Kelly reflecting on the happenings in his life and openly invites us to read the chapters. He declares that his "past is not what his future holds". This encouragement is applicable to all of us as we are reminded that we can overcome the mistakes of our past.

"Prayer Changes" speaks to the worth and power of prayer. Again, the honesty of Kelly's heart becomes evident as he speaks of the truth and impact of sincere prayer. "How Did You Manage" expresses the amazing love that God has for His people. Kelly openly wonders how God manages to love Him in the midst of his issues. Certainly, we all can relate to this concept as God's love is regularly extended to all in spite of our human frailties and inadequacies.

This project is special, for it does what few projects do —convey honesty and realness. Perhaps that's because we've been told so much (through the media) of the sordid side of this artist's life. There's no denying that R. Kelly has experienced God in a very real way.

Musically, U Saved Me is tight, and lyrically, it's as sound as any staunch traditional project on the market today. This project honestly admits to the struggle that all believers have. All of us are imperfect beings trying to please a perfect God. Kelly admits to this and takes us on his journey to understand God's love.

Sure, some may question the motives of this project, and perhaps legitimately. But the message here is True. The solution is that Christ came to save us, and we can accept Christ's redemptive work at any point during our lives. And while some may judge this project on Kelly's past, the fact remains that U Saved Me is as legitimate of a ministry tool that you'll find in 2004.

Check it out for yourself.

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Producer: R. Kelly
album release date: August 2004
Jive/Zomba Records

— reviewed by Gerard Bonner

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