It’s easy, on the Internet, to forget sometimes that there are two R. Kellys. We’re so caught up in the misadventures of one Robert Kelly—sex tape R. Kelly, “Ignition” R. Kelly, multi-part opera R. Kelly—that we lose sight of the other one, the inspirational “I Believe I Can Fly” R. Kelly, who provides soaringly sincere ballads unspoiled by any winking irony. (This Kelly was last seen opening G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer, but as with most of that album’s non-singles, “To the World” slinked away without making much of an impact.)
Now Kelly the balladeer has made a reappearance, on a song that calls out for absolutely no silliness. “I Know You Are Hurting” is Kelly’s contribution to the burgeoning sub-genre of Sandy Hook memorial songs, and listening to it you would be forgiven for forgetting that the years 2000-2012 ever happened. Kelly stays mostly in the background, as the melody is taken over by a children’s choir, and then a regular choir, raining down some powerful words about the importance of miracles. It’s miles away from “Sex Planet,” but it’s Sincere Kelly operating at the top of his game.