What you see is exactly what you get with R. Kelly’s fourth effort TP-2.com. A quick scan of the album’s song titles (“Strip For You,” “The Greatest Sex,” “Feelin’ On Yo Booty”) tells you all you really need to know. For the most part, TP-2.com offers up some pretty unsexy horn-ball drivel, with a couple of gospel numbers thrown in for redemption. The set opens with the dorky and unnecessarily self-referential title track: “I know you’ve heard a lot of tracks/But 12 Play is what you want.” Kelly’s lack of lyrical talent is painfully obvious as he spews crass one-liners like “I’m a winner in bed” and “Now it’s time to please me.” He believes sex is obligatory on “Don’t You Say No,” citing all the nice things he’s done for his girl: “All I wanna hear right now is you saying the yes word.”
“I Don’t Mean It” is repetitive at best, and basically asks his girlfriend to ignore the fact that he verbally abuses her (“It’s not for real/I don’t mean it”). And if she’s stupid enough to forgive him, he might write her a song like the selfish “I Decided,” where he claims he’ll drop his ego and treat her better: “Soon you’ll be searching for another man/And I just can’t have that happen to me.” (Not to mention, all of these tracks are the sort of syrupy mid-tempo ballads that has made hip-hop such an attractive alternative to plain old R&B.) In an attempt to negate his blatant misogyny, Kelly offers “A Woman’s Threat.” While the track features a slick string arrangement and accompanying piano part, it’s often repetitive and he ultimately objectifies women further by rendering them helpless and in need of “daddy.” The bridge includes an idiotic retelling of “The Three Bears” nursery rhyme with a melodramatic reference to “all of the porridge being gone.”
There are a few notable tracks on the album, including “R&B Thug,” which is obviously inspired by the Busta Rhymes/Janet duet, “What’s It Gonna Be,” but is palatable nonetheless. In an arguably brilliant juxtaposition, “The Greatest Sex” is a beautiful ballad about the best sex Kelly has ever had. It’s hard not to admire his audacity, deceptively opening the song with quiet keyboards and bittersweet strings and then inserting lines like: “Inside of your walls there will dwell a Capricorn/That will feast your body all night.” Two tracks, “I Wish” and “The Storm Is Over Now,” are reminders of why Kelly is famous. Though “Wish” is a somewhat trite reflection on the trials and tribulations of fame, its catchy chorus and moving melodies more than compensate. “Storm” is an inspirational ballad with a stirring gospel choir reminiscent of Michael Jackson gems like “Man In the Mirror” and “Will You Be There.” Still, Kelly’s lyrics are not his strong suit and his range of songwriting isn’t very broad, calling on similar melodic structures and often bland production. TP-2.com will likely satisfy avid Kelly fans, but it certainly won’t recruit any new admirers.