R. Kelly's music remained popular despite claims

As a veteran Chicago wedding DJ, Richard Gintowt has a lot of history with R. Kelly. Growing up, hits like “Ignition (Remix)” and “Step...


As a veteran Chicago wedding DJ, Richard Gintowt has a lot of history with R. Kelly.

Growing up, hits like “Ignition (Remix)” and “Step in the Name of Love” were the ubiquitous local favorites of the local R&B star, and when Gintowt started making the soundtrack for wedding parties, ” ‘Bump n’ Grind ‘used to crush it for me, ”he recalls.

But in 2019, amid renewed fury over decades of allegations that Kelly had systematically abused young women, the DJ, who now lives in the Bay Area, completely stopped playing Kelly’s music. The only time Gintowt recently launched “Ignition” – at the behest of a bride – the experience only strengthened his position.

“It was immediately a mood killer,” Gintowt said. “Everyone on the dance floor stopped and looked at me like, ‘What are you doing?’

For some, the rejection of Kelly’s music was long overdue, a late judgment for a star pursued by misconduct charges. (Kelly denied the allegations.) Yet even though his federal trial begins in Brooklyn this week – he faces accusations of racketeering based on the sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping and forced labor – Kelly’s musical legacy remains far from simple.

In some ways Kelly, 54, stands out as an emblem of the so-called cancellation culture, her music – including hits like “I Believe I Can Fly” and “The World’s Greatest” – all but erased from the crowd. radio and other commercial placements. , his prestigious concerts and record contracts are a thing of the past.

Still, data shows that the popularity of his music online has remained remarkably stable in recent years. Since January 2019, when the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” finally turned public opinion against it, Kelly’s music has had an estimated 780 million audio streams in the United States – not counting YouTube videos, where it also remains popular – and her work is promoted on hundreds of official playlists. On Spotify, it attracts 5.2 million listeners each month.

Looking at Kelly’s performances on multiple streaming and social media platforms, data service Chartmetric ranks him among the top 500 artists in music, on a level comparable to Michael Bublé and Carrie Underwood. On TikTok, some of the platform’s most popular influencers have used his music to soundtrack their posts, putting his total opinions on the same stage as J. Cole and Frank Ocean.

Such a dichotomy may be the fate of superstar artists accused of gross misconduct – outcasts in some places, but with enduring works that still attract large audiences. In the case of Michael Jackson, the subject of another 2019 documentary alleging sexual abuse, the business impact has turned out to be minimal – in fact, Jackson’s song streams have increased.

The critic and filmmaker Hampton Dream, executive producer of “Surviving R. Kelly,” called what Kelly has been through in recent years a sort of “social death,” in which businesses and ordinary members of society – exercise instructors, Uber drivers, BBQ DJ in the backyard – make up a collective decision to stop kissing an artist.

Hampton noted that the documentary itself was “not a call for a boycott – no survivors said that in the project.” But “social death doesn’t happen without some sort of narrative” that helps consumers make up their minds, she added, tracing this path from “fair” activism that sought to cut off Kelly’s financial resources to through the Lifetime series and the criminal charges. Who followed.

“He’s not just muted or denied, he’s in jail,” Hampton said.

Even before 2000, when the Chicago Sun-Times published the first major investigation into Kelly’s abuse allegations, the singer had been followed by rumors and accusations of misconduct. Throughout the 1990s, he settled lawsuits accusing him of having had sex with underage girls; in 1994, at the age of 27, Kelly married Aaliyah, her then 15-year-old protégé, allegedly using forged documents.

In 2002, Kelly was charged with child pornography after a video was released which authorities said showed the singer urinating and having sex with an underage girl. He was acquitted in 2008. But Kelly thrived before, during and after the controversy, releasing 12 platinum albums in all. He’s collaborated with stars like Jay-Z, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, and Chance the Rapper, and headlined major festivals in the 2010s.

The tide started to turn against Kelly in 2017, when Jim DeRogatis, who had long covered the Kelly case, reported for BuzzFeed News that the singer was holding young women in a abusive “worship”. A popular campaign called #MuteRKelly gained traction that summer, targeting the singer’s label, RCA Records, as well as radio stations, streaming services and concert halls.

By this point, Kelly’s influence was waning – he hadn’t scored any Top 40 hits for a decade – and the campaign against him coincided with the momentum of #MeToo. The singer saw his performances picketed and then canceled, while Spotify announced, then canceled, a policy prohibiting the promotion of artists, like Kelly, whose personal conduct has been deemed “hateful”.

After the airing of “Surviving R. Kelly”, with captivating testimonies from its alleged victims, in January 2019, RCA dropped the singer from his list, and some of his former collaborators apologized, while investigations by law enforcement agencies in several states for follow-up the allegations again.

“There was a long time when you could have enough plausible denial, and then in an instant it ended collectively,” said Peter Rosenberg, DJ and morning show host for Hot 97 New York (97 , 1 FM), who called Kelly “completely dead” at the station.

“There are a lot of people who have a lot of controversy getting played,” Rosenberg said. But for Kelly, “this was the documentary that really resonated so loudly that it just got people to never play it.” The TV series, he added, “pulled our hands out of our eyes and was like, you have to watch this. “

Radio, where song playlists are part of a station’s identity, is a barometer of audience tastes. Since the Lifetime documentary, the spread of Kelly’s music has plunged and has never recovered. Jackson, on the other hand, remains regularly popular on the air.

Online, the two stars are not diminished.

According to MRC Data, a tracking service used to compile Billboard charts, Kelly’s catalog feeds have remained essentially flat in the United States for the past four and a half years.

In early 2017, shortly after the release of Kelly’s latest studio album – “12 Nights of Christmas,” which peaked at # 177 – Kelly’s catalog averaged around five million streams each week. Today it’s just over six million a week, having fluctuated within that range continuously for the past four years.

The only exception came in early 2019, when “Surviving R. Kelly” aired and Kelly’s weekly numbers briefly doubled to about double their usual level, likely due to interest in the game. movie.

According to Chartmetric, Kelly’s music remains on around 300 official playlists on Spotify and Apple Music, as well as around 100 on Amazon Music; at each point of sale, these numbers have increased steadily over the past year.

Some of the playlists are algorithmically generated for more passive listeners, based on a given year’s top hits or artist collaborations, while others – like Spotify’s “Secret Genius with R. Kelly” – bring his music to light more directly for all the dedicated fans who remain.

Jackson’s streaming totals in the US have more than doubled over the past four years, from an average of around eight million per week in early 2017 to nearly 19 million per week today, peaking at every Halloween for “Thriller”.

Kelly’s recordings remain the property of RCA, a division of Sony Music, while her copyright is controlled by Universal. According to industry estimates, 780 million steams – Kelly’s total in the United States since the start of 2019 – would typically generate around $ 3 million in payments to rights holders. Neither Sony nor Universal would comment on the current state of Kelly’s music.

Kenyette Tisha Barnes, founder of #MuteRKelly, said she considers the campaign a success, despite continued interest in the singer’s catalog. “He’s on life support as an artist,” Barnes said. “It took 30 years to bring it to this level.”

At first, the activists’ strategy was to “cripple” Kelly’s ability to use money to control her alleged victims with her celebrity lifestyle and legal maneuvers like confidential settlements. This phase was successful, said Barnes, who also highlighted technology wins like Spotify’s option to completely “silent” artists.

Now, she said, “It is our goal to be the authors and architects of her legacy” – to make Kelly’s alleged crimes inexorable from her greatest hits.

“People see him as the king of R&B with an asterisk,” Barnes said.

Rosenberg, the radio personality, was more adamant – Kelly, he said, “has become the asterisk.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: R. Kelly's music remained popular despite claims
R. Kelly's music remained popular despite claims
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