R. Kelly, 'Love Letter,' and the creepy wink

​R. Kelly's Love Letter currently sits atop the iTunes Album Chart, and we ask: What?

Kanye's dick pics did little to harm his reputation, and Miley Cyrus's salvia bongabout will likely result in little professional fallout -- but R. Kelly's paper trail is peppered with less cheeky gaffes, namely the (acquitted) charges of child pornography, buttressed by that infamous, micturitious, video tape. After le scandal, R. Kelly's scarlet letter now seems to work in his favor.

We still look to R. Kelly for the same thing we always have: Careening, sexy jams. But those sexy jams are all subscripted by the idea that this dude is a skeevster. And that idea isn't unfounded, acquittals notwithstanding. In 2003, with his 14 counts of child pornography chugging along in Chicago, he had quite the dust-up in Florida. MTV News reported that the Judge in the Florida case withheld the photographic evidence from trial:

Judge Dennis Maloney ruled on Thursday that the prosecution could not introduce as evidence photos found on a digital camera, which police say show the singer having sex with an underage girl, due to a lack of probable cause for the search warrants. The camera was found during a June 2002 raid of Kelly's rented Davenport, Fla., home.

The photos existed, they were determined to be real, but because of a lack of probable cause in the search warrant used to obtain them they were inadmissible in court. You could call R. Kelly a sexual deviant and not be wrong. Is it any more wrong that we kind of like that about him now? Yes, probably. But the American collective is at least as R. Kelly as Kelly is himself. We're creepers, too.

Kelly's hip-hopera from 2005, Trapped In The Closet, was one of the weirdest cultural occurrences of the last decade by a mile. Completely bonkers, completely enjoyable, and the pivotal transition from "R. Kelly, dramatically-inclined R&B singer" to "R. Kelly, accused child pornographer and unrepentant oddball." When Kelly sings "We made love in a taxi cab!" on Love Letter or "I'm A Flirt" from 2007's Double Up (seriously) we smile uncomfortably, quietly asking ourselves, "with whom?"

Musically, there isn't much difference between the pre- and post-trial R. Kelly. On Love Letter we find him channeling '60s soul, as always through his ears. But the subtext has changed, and he knows it.

And he's winking right along with us.

Love Letter is available on iTunes now, for all your amorous December needs.

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