Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Alleged Stupidity of R. Kelly

Pitchfork has their list of the top 50 videos of the 2000s up, which is actually worth a look--there was quite a bit of cool stuff I had never seen before (like this amazing Michel Gondry video at #28). But I want to throw a question out there: when they get to R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" video, they give it a very high place on their list, but they nonetheless demean it as "a feat of audacity and batshit-crazy lack of self-awareness."

I'm sorry, but do any of you guys think that "Trapped in the Closet" suffers from a "lack of self-awareness"? If anything, I would say that it positively oozes self-awareness, and that, perhaps, no other video this side of Snakes on a Plane could be said to be so intrinsically, entirely, ironically self-aware. Am I possibly wrong about that? Is R. Kelly as stupid as Pitchfork would have us believe?


jayguevara said...

I think you're right, Q; to dismiss R. as "batshit-crazy" is a little silly. I mean, if they asserted that he was, say, "creepy and weird", I wouldn't disagree, but despite his personal proclivities, he has always been a fairly savvy musical composer, performer and producer (regardless of whether you like his music or not).

Perhaps he saw the send-up Dave Chapelle did of him ("This is the remix edition/of a song about pissin'...") and decided not to take himself so seriously. Or, perhaps more likely, he correctly supposed that doing something so strange and unexpected would generate a fair amount of attention (not to mention DVD and album sales).

In any case, I could understand if someone thought R. Kelly was taking the whole thing seriously if you watched the first few parts. It's a little silly, but not TOO over the top. By the time, however, that the asthmatic stripping midget prone to fainting spells has shitted in his pants and been revealed to be the bisexual police officer's wife's secret lover and baby-daddy...(deep breath) could you REALLY think R. Kelly was doing it all with a straight face?

Eric said...

To build on your answer, I think the answer is somewhere in between. Don't forget that he didn't actually make the whole thing all at once-- the first handful of chapters were the last track on one of his albums. And I think at that point he was totally serious and not at all self aware. I think once he saw the reception to that, he gained self awareness, so by the time the videos got crazy he was definitely in on the joke. Not sure about before then.

Quinapalus said...

Eric, you make an interesting point: there are also other tracks from that same album that walk the line between absurd-but-believably-sincere and clearly-self-conscious-self-parody. For instance, check out "Sex in the Kitchen".

My favorite bit is when he passionately shouts "Girl I'm ready to toss your salad!" and they bring in an intense beat to underscore every syllable of that sentiment.

texplush said...

I think you guys need to watch the extra features on Trapped In The Closet. They clearly demonstrate that R. Kelly's only intention is to make the single greatest film of all time. The guy thinks he is Martin Scorsese.
Trapped In The Closet is hugely entertaining and skillfully made. It is also hilarious and part of the fun is wondering JUST how seriously he is taking himself. The mystery of just how batshit crazy R. Kelly really is will remain one of the great modern pop fables of our time.

jayguevara said...

Is it now officially time to start discussing the self-awareness/bat-shit craziness of Kanye West?!