When news spread this year that R. Kelly would release an "urban operetta" titled "Trapped in the Closet," fans went nuts. After all, who is more qualified to dish about sordid secrets than the embattled 38-year-old R&B thug?

With a criminal trial pending over the infamous tape on which Kelly allegedly has sex with a minor and a recent feud with former tour-mate Jay-Z to draw from, Kelly should be a master of soap opera-style storytelling. But the Pied Piper's personal drama does little to spice up the ambitious five-track suite on his latest disc, "TP.3 Reloaded."

Kelly's bed-hopping aria doesn't always quite rhyme; uncovered lies are preceded by an annoyingly repetitive crescendo of the gritty, piano-heavy track; and the inclusion of the story of a married pastor having an affair with another man comes off as a cheap attempt to profit from "down low" hysteria. Besides, who wants to hear a man facing numerous counts of child pornography sit in judgment on dysfunction in romantic relationships?

The rest of the 19-track album, Kelly's seventh solo work, explores sex to better effect. There are several of his patented libidinous hip-hop collaborations, as well as forays into the worlds of reggae and reggaeton. But most of all, "TP.3" marks R. Kelly's return to his nasty-man roots. If the religion and G-rated dance music of last year's "Happy People / U Saved Me" was designed to lobotomize star-watchers obsessed with Kelly's personal saga, "TP.3" is his defiant reclamation of the smutty style that made him famous.

After his brief hiatus from sex jams, though, the man who put the "R" in R&B sounds a bit rusty at times. Like a divorce re-entering the dating scene, his lines can be corny and he tries a little too hard. Still, Kelly's sick knack for comparing a woman's anatomy to inanimate objects and his ability to make even the most everyday tasks seem tawdry remains unmatched.

"In the Kitchen" is a sultry little ditty that includes a water-drip sound effect (a leaky faucet, perhaps?) and depicts "cuttin' up tomatoes, fruits and vegetables, and potatoes" as foreplay. The dirty talk of "Put My T-Shirt On" soils the common white cotton tee beyond a point where even bleach can save it, and "Remote Control" includes plenty of talk of sexual button-pushing, including pleas to hit "Rewind" and, more curiously, "Fast Forward."

"Sex Weed" is perhaps the most hilarious, lewd metaphoric turn of Kelly's career. It appeared that Kelly had reached the pinnacle of bad taste by comparing women to Jeeps on 1995's "You Remind Me of Something." But "Weed" wins out by likening lovemaking to smoking marijuana with lines like "Baby I'm about to go up in smoke, 'cause your sex weed ain't no joke," over a creaking, seesawing beat.

The mellow guitar-laced "Kickin' It With Your Girlfriend," which has Kelly apologizing to his woman for taking up with one of her buddies, is the best "love" song of the album. Arguably the only tune that doesn't bear the stamp of Kelly's recent musical celibacy, it puts all of the singer's best qualities -- slick production, over-the-top emoting and shameless behavior without a shred of remorse -- on full display. And when Kelly croons an admission that he and his girl on the side "don't even regret it," it's easy to remember why his music can be such a guilty pleasure.

R. Kelly should not be pointing any fingers, yet his new "TP.3 Reloaded" often finds the R&B star in a judgmental frame of mind.