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Please don’t listen to R Kelly’s new song - read this instead

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Megan Murray
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R Kelly has released a new 19-minute song called I Admit, addressing the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Here, we explain why you shouldn’t listen to it.

At the height of R Kelly’s fame, songs like Bump N’ Grind and I Believe I Can Fly were considered anthems. In fact, he’s still regarded as one of the most successful RnB solo artists of all time, having secured the number one spot for six of his albums.

However, these same songs – which used to evoke an explosion of unifying nostaligia on the dance floor – now spark feelings of repulsion in many of the musician’s former fans. Indeed, I attended an event a few weeks ago where the DJ made the ill-fated mistake of playing Ignition (remix). As the first lyrics played over the speaker, another woman in the crowd recognised my discomfort and caught my eye, mouthing across the room: “What are we supposed to do when an R Kelly song comes on now?” 

Well, judging from the crowd, the answer is to exit the dancefloor and refuse to return until the DJ changes the track. Because, even when you’ve had a few drinks, the  multiple allegations against Kelly – which include sexual misconductrape and paedophilia – are instantly sobering. 

R Kelly performing in Michigan 

Earlier this year, the BBC documentary, R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, took an in-depth look at some of the allegations – sexual abuse and a sickening penchant for underage girls – that have dogged the musician for years. Alongside the fact he married popstar Aaliyah when she was just 15 (he was 27), other unsavoury aspects of the singer’s life were unearthed, such as the 1996 lawsuit that alleged he had group sex with underage girls (settled out of court) and his infamous 2008 acquittal for taping himself having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Yet while the documentary hammers home Kelly’s seemingly manipulative, vicious behaviour, only a handful of women have ever spoken to the press about their experiences with him.

One of these women is Tiffany Hawkins, who, in 1996, filed a lawsuit against Kelly for the personal injuries and emotional damage she experienced from an alleged relationship that began when she was 15. In 2001, a former Epic Records intern called Tracy Sampson also filed a suit against Kelly, claiming that she had been groomed by the singer at the age of 17. Again, both cases were settled out of court, but, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, heat on Kelly has only intensified. It grew to a fever pitch last July when Buzzfeed News published an investigation that claims he is responsible for a sex cult.

The piece reports that Kelly has relationships with six women, all of whom live in houses paid for by him, across Chicago and Atlanta. He is said to “control every aspect of their lives” including what they eat, when they use the bathroom, when they sleep and when and how they engage in sexual activity with him.

These claims are backed up by interviews with three women, Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee, all of whom are former members of Kelly’s “inner circle”.

Mack, who worked as Kelly’s personal assistant for a year and a half, says: “You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”

The women claim that Kelly sets rules about how he likes “to be pleasured” and what communication his “pets” can have with other people. For example, they aren’t allowed to sit facing other men and are banned from wearing tight clothes. If any of the girls or women break his rules, it is said that Kelly will be physically and verbally abusive. 

Now, at last, Kelly has responded to the claims. However, he has done so in the most self-serving and gratuitous way possible: via a new music release.

Aaliyah in 2000

That’s right: in a bid to win himself a place in the top ten, as well as clear his name, Kelly has recorded a 19 minute song called I Admit, which he has released in full on Soundcloud.”

So far, the song has surpassed 307,000 plays – which is no surprise, considering its controversial nature and provocative title. Indeed, many may have wrongly assumed (as I did) that the song is something like a confessional, or an apology, to the women who have spoken out against him.

Somewhat ironically, though, Kelly does not admit to anything in the song. In fact, we have listened to it in full, and have since learned that it is made up of a series of inflammatory “I admit” statements, all of which deny that Kelly is at fault. 

It might be tempting to listen to I Admit to see what all the fuss is about. But for Kelly’s career to experience a resurgence off the back of these allegations, or for him to profit off this song in any way, would be wrong. Below we’ve covered the main topics so that you can understand the message of the song, without actually having to listen to it.

R Kelly with Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift at the 2013 American Music Awards

1) Kelly admits to things that don’t need admitting to

Throughout the song, Kelly uses the words “I admit” to begin nearly every sentence. But these confessions are often deliberately ironic, highlighting how little he really thinks he has to “admit” to. For example, he sings, “I admit I can’t spell for s**t … I admit I trust people too much … I admit that I just need a hug.”

These statements are not related to each other or any of the other lyrics in the song. They are trivial. And when viewed in the context of the seriousness of the allegations made against Kelly, that triviality feels straight-up offensive.

No one is concerned with Kelly’s spelling. Being trusting is usually considered a positive trait. Nobody has criticised him for “needing a hug”. The man has been accused of abusing women and underage girls for a long, long time. His suggestion that his real crimes are inconsequential is deeply offensive.

2) Kelly defends his attitude towards women and sex

All of the allegations against Kelly centre on his mistreatment of girls and women, which leads us to the conclusion he is a dangerous misogynist. In the song, Kelly attempts to address this. He acknowledges that he is “a freak” who used to “go to strip clubs every week”.

However, he disputes the idea that he treats women with disrespect, singing: “How do they say I don’t respect these women when all I’ve done is represent?”

He also suggests his career has been damaged simply because he has had a lot of relationships: “Take a career and turn it upside down because you’re mad I’ve got some girlfriends. They took my gift and they blind me, where the f**k is my money?”

Here, Kelly is trivialising the damaging and manipulative relationships he has had with the women and girls who have spoken out against him. By referring to having “some girlfriends” he’s attempting to normalise having six partners that he is said to control, which is far from a normal or healthy set-up. 

He also draws the attention back to what he feels he’s lost, and lashes out at other people for taking his money, adding to the self-serving nature of the song. 

3) He addresses claims of a sex cult

In reference to the Buzzfeed News investigation that claimed the singer won’t let the women in his “inner circle” eat when they want, Kelly sings: “Say I’m abusing these women, what the f**k that’s absurd. Say they’re brainwashed – really? Kidnapped – really? Can’t eat – really? That s**t sounds silly.”

He follows this with some comments about the sexual preferences of some of the women he sleeps with: “I admit I got some girls that love me to pull their hair and talk dirty when I pull their hair. What some of these girls want is too much for the radio station.”

Kelly has been accused of group sex and non-consensual filming of sexual acts with girls as young as 13. This is a completely separate issue to an adult woman’s consensual sexual preferences, such as enjoying hair pulling. By putting the emphasis on what “some girls want” in the bedroom, Kelly is attempting to distract from his alleged abuse and blur the boundaries of consensual sex.

Several of the women reported to have been brainwashed by Kelly are aspiring singers whose parents originally thought that he would help their music careers. Addressing this, Kelly suggests the women’s parents are to blame.

“I ain’t chasing these ladies no, these ladies are chasing me, yes,” he sings. “This is my advice to the parents, because I’m also a parent, don’t push your daughter in my face. Your agenda is to get paid and you’re mad when it don’t go your way.”

Again, this is an attempt to remove Kelly from a place of accountability. Instead, he blames anyone but himself. The suggestion that the women or their parents are responsible for his actions is delusional. 

4) Kelly addresses the allegations of paedophilia

As previously mentioned, Kelly was originally criticised for having a relationship with the late singer Aaliyah when she was just 15. Over the last 20 years, he has been repeatedly accused of engaging in sexual activity with underage girls.

Kelly acknowledges these allegations, but rejects the suggestion that he is a paedophile. “I admit I f**k with all the ladies, that’s both older and young ladies. But tell me how do they call it paedophile cause that s**t crazy,” he sings.

“You’re entitled to have your opinion, but really am I supposed to go to jail and lose my career because of your opinions?”

He briefly mentions Aaliyah, and the May 2008 charge brought against him for making paedophilic media, by recounting a conversation he had with a woman: “She said what about Aaliyah, I said love. She said what about the tape, I said hush.”

Kelly hasn’t been convicted of any charges over the years, but the allegations against him are more than “opinions”. To reduce years of court cases and investigations to nothing but someone’s subjective thoughts is ridiculous.

R Kelly at the 2004 Grammy after party, the year after releasing Ignition 

5) Kelly insists his financial situation is dire

Kelly makes a few references to not having any money throughout the song. At one point he refers to himself as a “broke-ass legend,” says that he has been refused a loan and has been worried that his house would be taken away from him.

He also sings: “The only reason I stay on tour is to pay my rent, I never thought it would come to this, to be most disrespected artist.”

This feels like an attempt to make the listener feel sorry for Kelly, but his financial situation has no bearing on his alleged ill treatment of women. In a song that is supposedly answering to these allegations, his wealth – or lack of it – is irrelevant.

6) He says that he was sexually abused as a child 

At one point in the song, Kelly discusses being sexually abused as a boy. He sings: “I admit a family member touched me, from a child to the age 14. While I laid asleep took my virginity, too scared to say something, so I put the blame on me.”

Sexual abuse is a terrible thing to happen to anyone. But it does not exonerate a person from allegations that they themselves have been abusive. 

7) He doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong 

Throughout the entire song, Kelly continuously reiterates his innocence. He says that all claims against him are “bulls**t”, and insists that the only settlements he’s made were under instruction from his lawyers. “I’m just a man, I’m not a monster or beast,” he sings. “I’m so falsely accused, how can you judge when you never walked in my shoes?”

That Kelly recorded a whopping 19 minute-long song called I Admit – in which he admits to doing nothing wrong – shows just how self-indulgent he is. His comments make clear he doesn’t take sexual misconduct and the abuse of women seriously, and he appears to have no interest in reforming his behaviour or apologising to the women who say he has hurt them.

Although he is yet to be convicted, the number and magnitude of the allegations against Kelly indicate he has long wielded his power and position to manipulate girls and women who are less privileged than him. 

We can’t stop him releasing music that makes a mockery of the allegations against him, but we can stop him profiting off it – by refusing to listen.

Images: Getty 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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