R. Kelly may be calling it the Single Ladies tour, but the Chicago R&B stalwart promises to turn the venues he's playing into "one big, giant dating game" for both genders.
"I want to have some fun with the single ladies," Kelly tells Billboard, explaining that the 22-date trek was inspired by "Feelin' Single," the second No. 1 on the Adult R&B Airplay chart from his latest album, "Write Me Back."
"That (single) goes No. 1 and I said, 'Y'know what, I want to do a whole concept tour called the Single Ladies tour and bring the single ladies out.' I know there's going to be couples in the audience, which is great. At the same time ... I feel like wherever there's a single ladies party, there's gonna be a whole bunch of single guys, so we'll just call it one big dating game."
Kelly says he has "a lot of different stuff I want to try onstage" and "a lot of exciting surprises for this tour," which begins Oct. 13 in Columbia, S.C. He's not giving those away yet, but he does guarantee that the repertoire will not be restricted to the old-school flavors and gentlemanly tenors of "Write Me Back" and its predecessor, "Love Letter."
"Make no mistake about it: R. Kelly is gonna do old-school R. Kelly. There'll be a lot of the '12 Play' version of R. Kelly, mixed with the gentleman R. Kelly," he said.
He also promises the tour will be documented on both audio and video. "We're working on that," Kelly said. "You've got to package a show like this. It's something you've got to put on the shelves."
The Single Ladies tour will also be Kelly's first prolonged road trip since he had emergency throat surgery in July of 2011 to drain an abscess in one of his tonsils. Kelly says that he's feeling "really good about my throat. I've been through a lot with it, but I feel real good now. I've been singing in the studio every night, hitting it real hard, and I feel good about it."
Kelly is, in fact, working on his next album, the heavily sexual "Black Panties," while a third edition of his "Trapped in the Closet" series is expected to debut this fall.
Meanwhile, Kelly can also be heard on joining fellow Chicagoan Kanye West on "To the World," the opening track on West's G.O.O.D. Music compilation "Cruel Summer."
"Kanye sent me a track he was working on. I sent it back. He sent it back to me, I sent it back to him ... until we had something," Kelly recalls. "It felt good to both of us. He trusts my talent and I trust his talent. I knew Kanye way before he was known. We've always had fun in the clubs or wherever we were, just kickin' it, but we never had a chance to get in the studio before and hook up like this, and I'm just glad we finally got that chance. I'm just very honored to be on this track working with him."