It's tragic to see a master of r&b finesse fall back onto a childish, domineering bent that comes off as boorish, entitled, and mean-spirited. Lest we doubt R. Kelly's reluctance to slide into the gentler, more bemused Hugh Hefner phase of bachelorhood, the album ends with "Pregnant," a thoroughly repugnant track that the NAACP will probably have to publicly disown. "Girl, I just wanna get you pregnant," Kelly declares. "Lay you down." Whether she's being laid down on the living-room rug or in society isn't clarified, or maybe it is: "I'm 'bout to handle my business," he concludes, "and put that girl in my kitchen."

I'm afraid to say anything.
Anthony Mandler
I'm afraid to say anything.

Question: How can a record so intent on handling business and/or demonstrating mountain-peak, yodel-inducing levels of man prowess be so simultaneously juvenile? Maybe because America's dysfunctional marriage system, of which Kelly is a product, helps consumer culture glamorize an endless summer of adolescence—or, relatedly, because the pressure on men to remain forever virile sells Cialis and stirs inner demons on both sides of the sideshow fence. A man willing to go a little soft in his forties, though—now that would be the great American freak, monster, perv.

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