Note: This post originally appeared on this blog in July of 2005.
This post was going to be part of the music chapter of the book, but I ultimately decided against it. It's one thing to have a large chunk of your life's work involve Vanilla Ice -- quite another to include R. Kelly. Silly versus profane. Anyhoo, because I did put a modicum of effort into reediting it, I figured I'd just repost here for all to enjoy, or -- as it pertains to many people who have read said Vanilla Ice pieces in the book -- to be utterly confused by.
For what it's worth, it's been six years since Trapped in the Closet (anniversary special???), and I still don't know what to make of it.
The immortal R. Kelly has put out yet another album, this time a kind of R&B opera entitled Trapped in the Closet, which is accompanied by a string of approximately 800 music videos in which he “acts” out the song chapters. By “acts” I mean he lip syncs and occasionally pretends to drive a car in front of very fake backgrounds that are probably being held up by two girls in bikinis. In fact, “opera” is a poor word choice, as it signifies some semblance of cultural ingenuity when, in the case of Trapped in the Closet, there is a scene where a little person defecates himself.
Trapped in the Closet is so awful and so bizarre that it has become the object of ridicule among many, myself included. It’s difficult, however, to decipher whether or not the joke is lost on R. Kelly. It seems impossible that any human being would be able to process this series of songs and videos as anything other than parody. It seems even less likely that the creator of such a…thing, would be able to do so from a genuine place. Alright, I want the little person over here on the counter, and put the cherry pie over there. I’m gonna hold the gun like this, and those two girls are gonna make out. Okay? Alright, ‘action’ on three…”
But R. Kelly is not your everyday R&B crooner. He is currently immersed in a legal battle—one that surpasses the tragic and bizarre nature of any Trapped in the Closet scene, if only because it involves real life. Plus, the passion with which R. Kelly speaks about his latest work, and the obvious admiration he has for it, does little to dissuade me from believing that he and I have differing opinions with regards to its intended impact.
The best case against Trapped being intentionally hilarious is the fact that R. Kelly has other albums from which to base judgment. It’s fairly obvious to me that R. Kelly fashions himself to be the titan of modern R&B singing and songwriting. This self-perception is based on an extensive catalog of what can only be described as greatness. Like the time he recruited Ronald Isley to play a character called “Mr. Big” in a series of songs and videos that included dialogue such as this:
Hello Mr. Big / How ya’ doin’ Mr. Big / What the hell is goin’ on? / What you mean what’s goin’ on?
Yes, what is going on? It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that we delve deeper into some of R. Kelly’s past lyrics in order to decipher whether or not Trapped in the Closet is a genuine or ironic form of classic. But please, be forewarned. Besides believing he can fly, R. Kelly really, really, really likes sex. Really. For example:
You remind me of my jeep, I wanna ride it
Comparing women to automobiles is a popular American pastime, mainly for the obvious sexual innuendoes, i.e., placing the “key” into the “ignition,” and putting “gas” into the “gas tank,” and so on and so forth. Women like nothing more than to be compared with cars—trust me—especially when you are suggesting that you would like to ride them like a car, as in you would like to sit on top of them and have them transport you to Seven-Eleven to pick up some milk, or, in R. Kelly’s case, “rubbers.”
(You remind me of) my bank account, I wanna spend it
Now I’ve heard of spending money on women, but R. Kelly has taken that concept to a whole new level in that he actually uses women as currency, mainly in order to purchase other, better women. Or socks. Also, a lot of everyday things seem to remind R. Kelly of sex. Stop being so suggestive, everyday things!
Let’s go half on a baby
Hey, why not? I mean, we’re just sitting here. We might as well procreate. And I promise—when the baby comes out, I’ll take care of the head and arms, you worry about the legs and torso. Or we could fight for full body rights and then have Solomon decide. Whatever. By the way, when we’re done, can we go half on a pizza? I’m hungry. And horny. But mostly horny.
(I would also like to mention that this particular lyric is not a throwaway, plucked at random from the ocean of other great R. Kelly lyrics. This is the name of a song. Speaking of great song titles…)
I like the crotch on you
Let us not beat around the bush. (Or, as R. Kelly might suggest in a fabulously appropriate jingle, let’s.) I’m just going to throw this out there, because I have no time for complimenting hair, or jewelry, or any other facet of your person that does not exist within the circumference of your reproductive area: I like the crotch on you. There. Sue me. Or, better yet, have sex with me.
Girl, run to your Internet and download me / Get my computer love right off your screen
R. Kelly’s love has gone digital. There is no telling what the implications of this may be.
It's the pied piper, your music weatherman / It's love-o'clock and we're broadcasting live / right here from the Chocolate Factory
Wait—it’s love-o’clock already? I was supposed to be at the Chocolate Factory an hour ago! Time flies when you’re downloading R. Kelly’s love off the Internet.
Okay you, you're saying you came in and / And these two women they, they poured / Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, it wasn't nothing like that / All I know is uh, I was asleep, they came in / Woke me up pourin' hot grits / And all kinds of (bleep) on me man, okay beatin' me and (bleep) / Hittin' me with all sorts of type (bleep)
I’m not exactly sure what happened here, or if R. Kelly’s okay, but this reads like a scene from Trapped in the Closet. This is why I am convinced, sadly, that Trapped in the Closet is, in fact, R. Kelly’s genuine and ill-fated attempt at Sergeant Pepper or Purple Rain.
Odd that the same man who sang, so eloquently, “Sex in the Kitchen” and “Feelin’ on Yo’ Booty” would miss the mark on a classic rock opera so badly. The good news, however, is that R. Kelly thinks otherwise. When asked about Trapped in the Closet in an interview before its premiere, R. Kelly described his latest work as “groundbreaking.”
The ground is breaking all right. But it’s Marvin Gaye, rolling over in his grave.