R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet?
November 14, 2005 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Can someone explain the appeal of R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet?

Just to be clear -- this is a (at least somewhat) serious question. I'm not intentionally trying to invite scorn for R. Kelly and/or his on-going "opera" Trapped in the Closet.

My question is, having seen several "parts" of the song/video(s) on VH1 and Jimmy Kimmel Live, I can't help but laugh at how silly and over-the-top the song/lyrics/story/video are. And I can see why some (such as Kimmel) are fascinated and amused by the whole thing. (Especially when you consider Kelly's checkered past.)

But I'm assuming for R. Kelly and his fans this 12 part song isn't necessarily meant to be taken as a big joke or novelty. So I'm wondering, what is the appeal to his fans or others that don't see it as a punchline to a late night comic's monologue? I guess my real question about R. Kelly and this song is:

Is he serious?
posted by jca to Media & Arts (18 answers total)
Ask yourself this: why do people watch soap operas?

...and then move on to the next question.
posted by item at 12:29 PM on November 14, 2005

Sadly he's serious. There's nothing else to say. Are you aware of the stuff people will watch on television? Are you surprised that there's an audience for this?
posted by xmutex at 12:37 PM on November 14, 2005

It's about time somebody rediscovered opera.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:40 PM on November 14, 2005

The first one is the only one worth watching.
1. tells a story
2. R Kelly got a gun!
3. R Kelly does classy thug love really well, for the genre. Most record labels try this by paiting a rapper (thug, male audience) with an RnB singer (love, female audience.) It's a popular formula, and sells well. R Kelly doet pretty effortlessly, all in one song.
4. 'Step in the Name of Love' is the best Marvin Gaye retread ever.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:48 PM on November 14, 2005

"Is he serious?"

Well, maybe, sometimes, kinda. Was Ziggy Stardust serious? Are the Flaming Lips? Is MF Doom/King Geedorah/Dangerdoom? Is Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream serious?

Many artists who are worth their salt have an ambivalent relationship with humour, with novelty, with play. Trapped in the Closet is genius because it's so fucking absurd (especially on record, or as acted out by R Kelly solo), but also because it's so compelling in a soap-opera kinda way ("What will happen next!?"), and also because it plays so gleefully with its own tricks, its own artificial gravitas. Every track uses the same (AWESOME) build-up. "A RUBBER!?" "He's gay!?" The hilariously spunky back-and-forth conversations...

There is no reason to think R Kelly is a moron (unless you believe all illiterates are morons), and tons of reasons to think he's a genius (his songwriting chops speak for themselves). Trapped in the Closet is complicated, and able to be enjoyed in different ways. I dunno if we'll ever really know R Kelly's intention, but if you mean "is he self-aware", I think the answer is of course he is.
posted by Marquis at 12:54 PM on November 14, 2005

I don't think his intended audience necessarily takes Trapped in the Closet all that seriously. The people I know who like R. Kelly in general indicate that the over-the-top ridiculousness of the story is part of the reason they like it. This is different from the sort of quasi-ironic approval others may have for the song cycle.
posted by Falconetti at 12:56 PM on November 14, 2005

The thing is, if we weeded out everything that was silly and/or over the top, we'd kill off oh, all of classical opera, nearly every symphony and piano opus written after 1850, most of rock and roll, wide swaths of jazz, virtually every musical ever written, and so on until we'd be left with a couple of pieces by Elgar, and a handful of somber SOBs playing music that is JUST. EVER. SO. RESTRAINED. AND. SERIOUS.

Silly & over-the-top is a grand good time, if it's in a genre you like to begin with. Otherwise... you ask questions like What was Mozart thinking with Cosi fan tutte... was he serious? I doubt I'd like the R. Kelly thing but I can easily think of half a dozen things I really do love that are probably just as silly. Possibly there is even something silly and over-the-top that you enjoy; make the analogy.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:57 PM on November 14, 2005

On more thing - I think a lot of people who are otherwise intelligent and critical consumers of culture suddenly throw those ideas out the window when confronted with mainstream hip-hop. Don't! The same ideas of negotiated reception/transmission and constructed identity apply. 50 Cent's not much different from Vincent Gallo. (In a lotta ways, actually...)
posted by Marquis at 12:59 PM on November 14, 2005

I love Trapped In The Closet because it's so...I dunno, pure, and naive. My only possible explanation is that R. had a strong vision that would not be derailed by any criticism or naysaying.

It's rare to see such an ambitious effort untainted by committee-think. I mean, what corporate marketing department could ever create such a thing? Beyond the schlocky and hilarious aspects, I love it as a rare and absurd creation by someone who was passionately driven to create it. Whatever it is.
posted by samh23 at 1:07 PM on November 14, 2005

here's someone i admire and respect talking about how it's the best album of 2005. i haven't seen it yet, so i dunno.
posted by mathowie at 1:33 PM on November 14, 2005

Aside from the pedofilia, R. Kelly is awesome. It should be obvious that he isn't totally serious in some of his rhyming couplets

I close my mouth,and swollow spit,
as I'm thinking to myself this is some deep shit,

And she cries out I'm so scared to tell you because of what ya might do
And I screamed look girl you better give me this man's name and I'm not playin wit you

posted by Quartermass at 3:44 PM on November 14, 2005

Aside from the pedofilia, R. Kelly is awesome.

Best quote of this thread so far? :)
posted by jca at 3:55 PM on November 14, 2005

Aside from the pedofilia, R. Kelly is awesome.

I thought he was great in the recent Boondocks episode.
posted by tetsuo at 4:57 PM on November 14, 2005

"Sadly he's serious."

My friends and I have spent way too much time discussing whether or not he's serious, and how much irony he is involving. There are some moments when he's clearly just having a good time - like in the 6th chapter when R. Kelly and his wife start laughing about all that's going on. Other moments, like when he pauses the movie right before a hidden midget is about to come out from below the sink, are harder to tell.

It's very telling to watch the commentary on the DVD. It's R. kelly sitting in front of a large screen, watching it, and occasionally commenting. But he never mentions anything about shooting or acting... all he discusses (ok, almost all) is plot points. And when you watch the commentary, it really appears that he's just giddy about the whole project. It comes across as very genuine, actually, very sincere.

In any case, we love it. It's one of the most entertaining thing I've ever seen, regardless of what he intended. And he clearly is talented - very good singer, he crafts the story well (even if the story is ridiculous), he builds tension well, he does different voices from everyone and you stop thinking that it's one person doing all the voices, etc.
posted by ORthey at 5:34 PM on November 14, 2005

From my friend who works for his label: "Yes, it's a joke"
posted by softlord at 9:32 PM on November 14, 2005

This is my favorite

The next thing ya know, she starts goin real wild
And starts screamin my name
Then I said baby, we must slow down
Before I bust a vessel in my brain
And she said please no dont stop
And I said I caught a cramp
And she said please keep on goin
I said my leg is about to crack
Then she cries out
Oh my goodness, I'm about to climax
And I said cool
Just let go of my leg

posted by mike_bling at 12:44 PM on November 15, 2005

I hope that answers your question.
posted by mike_bling at 12:45 PM on November 15, 2005

I think it approaches an almost Wellesian genius.

Plus it proves that theater is not yet dead. :) Seriously, the "song" doesn't work nearly as well when separated from the entertainingly literal acting interpretations.

I look forward to seeing how South Park handles it on this week's episode...
posted by First Post at 11:27 PM on November 15, 2005

« Older dui dad   |   How can I improve my sleep with drugs? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.