Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bookmarks: R Kelly

If you read nothing else today, you should read Jessica Hopper's interview with Jim DeRogatis, about his long, lonely attempt to shine a light into R Kelly's behaviour, and the free pass he gets from Pitchfork and others who should know better:

This deeply troubles me: There's a very -- I don't know what the percentage is -- some percentage of fans are liking Kelly's music because they know. And that's really troublesome to me. There is some sort of -- and this is tied up to complicated questions of racism and sexism -- there is some sort of vicarious thrill to seeing this guy play this character in these songs and knowing that it's not just a character!

Songs like "Sexasaurus" kind of makes it novel. The ironic, jokey Trapped in the Closet series airs on the Independent Film Channel and features Will Oldham -- that has these other hallmarks of "art" that read to a white, hipster, indie-rock audience, then, because we are not taking certain things seriously, we can choose not to take the lives of these young black women seriously.

It puts it in the realm of camp or kitsch. If you have an emotional reaction to a work of art and you use all your skills as a critic to back it up with evidence and context. That's all we can ask of anybody. We're all viewing art differently. The joy is in the conversation. Pitchfork is the premier critical organ in the United States for smart discussion of music, books, and artists, but it doesn't have this discussion. Reviews his records but doesn't have the conversation about, "What does it say for us to like his music?"


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