The Welcome – Robert Kelly EP

About a month ago, I was introduced to the music of Chicago band the Welcome via their self-titled debut EP. Because I dug what I heard, I was excited to learn they had plans to release several more EPs on a monthly basis. The time has come for the first follow-up, which I am happy to present to you tonight. Yes, it is all R. Kelly covers, and yes, it is quite awesome.

When I think about the grand tradition, ranging from Ben Folds to Dynamite Hack, of rock-based acts covering rap or R&B music, I can't discern any clear pattern of what works for me and what doesn't. I guess I just know it when I hear it, and in this case, I liked what I heard from the Welcome. The choice makes sense, given both acts' geographic ties as well as the intriguing magnetism of R. Kelly. Some call him crazy, some call him genius, and because you can never quite tell where the line between seriousness and being in on the joke is actually drawn in R. Kelly's music, the Welcome can come across as both ironic and reverent in equal, basically effortless fashion.

Say what you will about R. Kelly, but everyone has to acknowledge his ubiquity as a hitmaker. "Remix to Ignition" might be my favorite song of his and a pop song I like a lot in general. I love the beat and the melody, and more importantly, it also reminds me of specific times and people because the amount I heard it made it akin to aural wallpaper in the room of memory. I really enjoy the Welcome's take. The acoustic guitars and keyboards capture the smooth, relaxed vibe of the original but it also picks up some energy at times with the drumming, an addition I like. Vocalist Gehring Miller's voice is well-suited for the song, he sounds comfortable in its melodic range, using some nice falsetto for what I guess would be the bridge (you know, the part about parties and after parties). And this confirms that no matter who is on voice, this is one of the most singable choruses ever.

The other tracks on the EP are "Ignition" and "I'm A Flirt." The former feels a little more like a band performing the song as it was, as opposed to "Remix to Ignition" becoming a full band version, if that makes sense. Either way, I think both work well. And both make it very clear that no one can sexualize an extended metaphor on automobiles and driving like R. Kelly can. "I'm A Flirt" starts more straight-up before becoming the hardest rocking of the three, which gives the song an urgency that makes the warnings of the lyrics feel even more serious. Like I said, sometimes this works for me, sometimes it doesn't. It really works here, I dig.

You should check out the full EP, for free, at the Welcome's bandcamp page. For more on the band, here's their website.