pop culture's bravest

Year in Review: R. Kelly Takes Us to ‘Sex Planet’ and Back

Photo illustration: Getty Images and NASA (space shuttle)

From now until the end of the year, Vulture will celebrate the people who made 2007 what it was: Pop Culture’s Bravest.

It had to happen someday — after ten albums packed with increasingly creative and ridiculous sexual metaphors, R. Kelly had finally run out of things on Earth to compare his penis to. But while a lesser artist might’ve repeated himself or stopped penning freaky sex jams altogether, Kelly evolved, boldly taking his shtick where no horny R&B singer had gone before: outer space. The result? “Sex Planet,” 2007’s finest ballad about zero-gravity intercourse and the indisputable centerpiece of Double Up, the best album of Kelly’s fifteen-year career.

When the track leaked in May, the blogosphere didn’t know quite what to make of it; sure, the lyrics go to all the most obvious places (black holes, the Milky Way, and Uranus, most notably), but Kellz’s unblinking conviction matches the song’s absurdity making it hilarious, yes, but also catchy, and even kind of sexy (especially if you’re drunk). “Come fly away with me, riding my ecstasy out in the galaxy,” he croons over a mellow Fender Rhodes figure. (Side note: Double Up’s sequencing makes the year’s weirdest argument for the return of the album format, with “Sex Planet” inexplicably segueing directly into “Rise Up,” Kelly’s tribute to the victims of April’s Virginia Tech shooting.)

“Sex Planet” and Double Up were met with a tidal wave of breathless critical acclaim (in the New York Times, freak-folkie Devendra Banhart raved, “This album makes me feel like I’m driving a turquoise Hummer over a rainbow made of distilled euphoria,” which is exactly how it makes you feel — listen to it, we’re serious), but Kelly was not yet done giving.

In August, he released the much-anticipated chapters 13 to 21 of his Trapped in the Closet, in which he introduced a raft of colorful new characters (including flatulent neighbor Randolph and the irrepressible Pimp Luscious), gave most of them AIDS, and coined the year’s most inescapable catchphrase (in our apartment, anyway): “Crazier than a fish with titties.” Quite rightly, New York named Trapped 2007’s No. 1 (Intentionally) Funniest Web Video, and we declared it “the cultural event of the year.” To show his appreciation, Kelly granted us a rare e-mail interview, expressing an interest in taking on more acting roles (“Drama, action, comedy or suspense or whatever,” he said) and vowed to keep right on entertaining us “till the aliens decide to leave.” As far as Vulture’s concerned, though, we’re lucky just to have “Sex Planet.”

Earlier: Vulture’s 2007 coverage of R. Kelly

Year in Review: R. Kelly Takes Us to ‘Sex Planet’ and Back