Thursday, July 14, 2005

Trapped in the Closet, The League bears witness


Remember the dude who teamed with Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes gang to teach a whole generation he could fly (or was it them? I can't recall...)? Just who was that man singing that inspirationally treacly tune?

R.Kelly. That's who. The film: Space Jam. Yeah, I saw it. Shut up.

R.Kelly then used the launchpad of his success with Taz and Co. to do two things:

1) create a series of videos which were operatic in nature, belying the over-produced goofiness of R.Kelly's substandard R&B stylings.

2) get charged with 21 counts of child pornography.

For the past few years, it's been the latter of R.Kelly's two achievements that has really been grabbing headlines.

Well, good news for music lovers. R.Kelly is back! And this time he's come with an astounding creative vision, an operatic saga of Wagnerian proportions. Crossing the span of five songs and five music videos, R. Kelly's opus is curiously dubbed "Trapped in the Closet".

Yes, "Trapped in the Closet." R.Kelly's not afraid of ducking the big social issues. Like picking up chicks at bars and then having to hide from their husbands in, you guessed it, the closet.

This sort of stuff more or less makes up the entirety of the 5-song cycle.

Now I know all of you want to dash off to watch all the videos, but maybe you don't have 20-25 minutes to dedicate today to R. Kelly? Well, The League is here to assist.

Remember how in the summer you'd get a job and you'd be working with people you just don't know in the slightest, and then in Day 2, they decide to start unloading all of their Jerry Springer personal lives on you? And you begin to formulate a theory that this person seems to have designed their model for proper behavior between human beings by watching endless hours of Melrose Place and The O.C.?

And despite the fact they're managing to bore you AND make you uncomfortable with their stories, you can't manage to just shush them. After all:

1) Your mama raised you to be polite and listen
2) You figure that if they're telling you, it must be very important and maybe they've decided you're the only person they can talk to (until you realize every single person around knows the entire story by heart by now)
3) You figure if they're bothering to tell you this incredibly convoluted story with a half dozen characters and an obvious chain of incredibly poor choices on the part of the narrator, my GOD, there's got to be a point...

And then the person finishes the story and asks you what you what you think, and you're left standing there wondering, since their story has made you seriously consider the legitimacy of mandatory sterilization for the very first time, that maybe you're a closet fascist.

Well, that's R. Kelly. R.Kelly is the moron who sat in front of me that bleak summer at North Harris Community College who couldn't pass any exams whatsoever. R.Kelly is the twit who took up my coffee break three consecutive days at Chuck E. Cheese. R. Kelly is the flake I sat next to at defensive driving. R. Kelly is the angrily irresponsible boob Real World casting agents salivate over.

What does the song cycle accomplish?

The sheer scope of the project screams "epic", and you can almost feel it. This is IT. This is R.Kelly's big artistic moment, his chance to prove he's not just a guy who takes pictures of underage girls. He's a serious artist with a big picture of the world that he simply must share or he might explode.

And, apparently, he's a guy who doesn't think it's weird that he doesn't need to come home to his wife at night, and that he will cheat on his wife after a drink or two. We also learn that he's a serious artist who doesn't wear protection (nor even shower) after finding out about the wild world of sexual intrigue he's just foisted upon himself.

Re: the title

I don't want to give anything away. Someone in this tale is, in fact, gay... Is it R.Kelly? Well, the title would suggest exactly that. But, in a completely unsurprising display demonstrating a total lack of subtely on R.Kelly's part, R.Kelly as narrator is not revealed to be gay. He's actually trapped in the literal closet.

It is another character who disappears after Song 3 that is figuratively "in the closet". And while Figure #3 is important, he's not really central enough to make you think he should really be grabbing the title.

The whole enterprise sort of leaves you wondering. Is R.Kelly that naive to think that the title wouldn't raise a few eyebrows, or were the extra two parts of the song just R. covering his tracks? The world may never know...

Now, for no particular reason a gun enters late in Track #1, adding both an alarming insight into R.Kelly's first line of defense in a confrontation and a lot of awkward and pointless gun waving during the interminable Track #2.

Musically, all 5 tracks are the same indistinguishable mass of steady beats and audio loops. What's supposed to be carrying all five tracks, in theory, is R.Kelly's vocal. There is a sort of rhyme and meter, but the entire thing feels more like R.Kelly made up as kooky of a story as he could while floating in the tub and then added a few loops behind it.

Still, you doubt The League? Here are some of my favorite lyrics.

Damn, here comes a police man
He drove right up on me and flashed his light
Then I pulled over without thinkin twice
He hopped out the car and walked over to me
And said license and registration please
I looked up at him and said
Officer, is there somethin wrong
He said no, except you were were doin 85 in a 60 mile zone
Then I said officer
Let me explain please
Ya see the truth of the matter is
Is that I have an emergency
He said no excuses
And no exception
I said this is some he gave me the ticket

Tellin' it like it is. Reportin' from the streets. It's R.Kelly. For all the lyrics, click here.

The truth is, this actually reads about 10 times better than it actually sounds.

Leaguers, I simply CANNOT RECOMMEND "TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET" ENOUGH. It's a rare thing when one sees a project so obviously important to an artist, a project so near and dear to an artist's heart that they want to say, "THIS IS IT! THIS IS THE ONE THEY'LL REMEMBER ME FOR!" And it is rare that such a labor of love is such a complete trainwreck of misery and crapola completely exposing the artist for the hacky schmuck he really is.

To watch the entire epic, click here.

I have no idea what TP.3 means. Maybe it's slang for "The law requires that I inform you that I am living in your neighborhood."

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