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Classics // R. Kelly – “Happy People”

Any friend of mine enjoys dipping his toe in some R. Kelly from time to time, anytime. But I know, I know. How could you? He’s a monster! I’ll tell you.

Have you heard “Happy People”? It should change your mind. Off 2004’s double album Happy People/U Saved Me, It’s the kind of song you can put on at any point during any party and have everyone dancing. It’s the kind of song everyone thinks they already know just because it makes you feel so damn cozy-good. It sounds like one of the classics because well, it is. It’s impossible not to want to dance with everyone you know as he sings “Happy people keep the world turnin.” By the time he gets to the “step to the left…” breakdown, forget it, you’re already there.

But just one song does not a lifelong relationship build. “I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I)” is one of the first CD singles that I remember buying, with its wonky 90s slim jewel case. I remember rewinding my CD walkman so many times when I was 7 because the Space Jam soundtrack didn’t think its audience cared about words, and Leonie’s Lyrics Page didn’t have “I Believe I Can Fly” up yet. “The Storm Is Over” brings back memories of G-Baby and Keanu Reeves the baseball coach, and “Gotham City” was Batman’s theme song for Christ’s sake. “The World’s Greatest” literally has me thinking, for 4:35 that I can float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

Because on those bad days, those really bad days, nobody gives a hug quite like Robert Sylvester (of course) Kelly – “I Wish” is the man going to his dark place. He was blessed with a voice so silky I need to powder myself between songs, and his music videos, with its fur coats, helicopters, and excessive fades make me feel like a kid again. He’s an artist who has been extremely successful with both “Ignition” and “I Believe I Can Fly” – he is, if nothing else, a chameleonic genius (his latest album, 2010’s Love Letter, was a full-fledged throwback to classic soul). Some songs are so good it can make you forget about his whole – well, not quite, but can’t we separate artist from personality? Ladies and gentlemen, R Kelly’s “Happy People.”

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