The Curious Case of R. Kelly’s Continued Success

by The Cowl Editor on January 17, 2019

Arts & Entertainment

by: Madeline Weaver-Nolting ’19 A&E Staff

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The notorious R&B singer R. Kelly’s reputation might be suffering due to numerous sexual abuse allegations against him, but his music is thriving. The new Lifetime docu-series called “Surviving R. Kelly” features different women share their stories of sexual abuse and misconduct at the hands of R. Kelly. 

Despite the numerous allegations against him and all of his previous run-ins with the law, R. Kelly’s music is becoming more popular. Billboard reported, “The most-streamed R. Kelly songs were as follows: ‘Ignition’ (433,000 U.S. streams; up 80 percent from 240,000 on Jan. 2), ‘Trapped in the Closet’ (396,000; up 230 percent from 120,000), ‘Bump N’ Grind’ (266,000; up 94 percent from 137,000), ‘Same Girl,’ featuring Usher, (176,000; up 126 percent from 78,000), and ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ (161,000; up 48 percent from 109,000).” Even though his music is thriving on streaming services, it is becoming a moral debate for some radio stations, as some are beginning to ban playing his music. 

The music industry is also taking sides as R. Kelly is being defended by other artists. However, the ones speaking out against him are being punished by R. Kelly’s loyal fans. Cara Delevingne lost 50,000 followers on Instagram after speaking out against him. Lady Gaga is also removing her collaboration with Kelly from streaming sites. Her statement read: “As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and the video at a dark time in my life, my intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn’t processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life.” 

Other celebrities have remained quiet such as famous name and previous collaborator Jay-Z, who turned down an interview in the documentary. 

The 52-year-old artist’s music might be doing better than it has in years, but the documentary has created new problems for the infamous R. Kelly as he faces legal trouble based on what was revealed about him in the Lifetime special. The cities of Chicago and Atlanta are looking into the allegations, despite Kelly’s denial of all crimes. He, in return, is promising to take those who spoke out against him in the documentary to court. 

When looking at his track record, it is no surprise that his music is doing better than ever before. The New York Times says, “In 2002, the year he was indicted on charges of child pornography, he performed at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics — a duality that spoke to the level of his fame.” R. Kelly may have been accused of terrible actions, but this is only helping his music career. Ann Powers, a pop music critic, who was interviewed in “Surviving R. Kelly” said simply, “Nobody wants to give up the music they love, and nobody wants to think badly of the artists they love.” Only time will tell if and when R. Kelly’s music continues to be successful and what his legal fate will be.