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MUSIC R. Kelly captivates with modern-day R & amp;B opera



Published: Thu, July 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



'Trapped in the Closet' is a multichapter saga that is already a genre classic.

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

WASHINGTON POST

We are, it seems, trapped in that closet, and executives at Jive Records must be ecstatic. Weeks after "Trapped in the Closet" first leaked out on the radio and online, conversations still revolve around the five-chapter song/soap operetta/saga by R. Kelly, who is everything you could want in a hype machine: singer, criminal defendant, phenomenon.

Hits magazine estimates that Kelly's "TP.3 Reloaded," which includes the "Closet" opera, will sell 500,000 copies in its first week, one of the year's best debuts. BET aired all five chapters of the video for "Trapped in the Closet" in a special the night the album was released last week, drawing 2.8 million viewers and making it the ninth most-watched telecast in BET's 25-year history, spokesman Michael Lewellen says. There's a seductress who rips off her wig, a protagonist who waves a gun, and "down-low" Christians. All that in Chapter 1!

Slice of life

If you have no idea what we're talking about, let's bring you along. "Trapped in the Closet" -- both video and song suite -- finds R. Kelly, aka the Pied Piper, hiding in his lover's closet when her spouse comes home unexpectedly.

Spouse walks into tainted bedroom and proceeds to ravish cheating wife.

Then: Pied Piper gets cell phone call. Cuckold husband's ears perk up. He leaps off the bed while wifey's biting her nails. "Nails!" our corn-rowed hero sings. "Right now I'm sweating like hell." (So are we, Kellz. So. Are. We.) Husband "checks under the bed, then under the dresser. He looks at the closet -- I pull out my Beretta ..."

He walks up to the closet.

He goes up to the closet.

Now he's at the claw-SIT.

Now he's opening the claw-SIT.

(The closet door starts to creak, and leaves us hanging at the end of Chapter 1.)

"That is one of the hottest topics in the clubs, in the streets. Who's sleeping with who? Are you straight or bisexual? If you marry me, are you going to cheat? Everything in 'Trapped in the Closet' is part of the day-to-day saga in D.C.," says Jeannie Jones, a DJ at WKYS-FM.

Continual criticism

However, not everyone appreciates Kelly's love under fire. For starters, the singer is facing 14 counts of child pornography-related charges in Chicago after a sex tape surfaced in 2002, allegedly showing him having sex with a minor. He has pleaded innocent. The next pretrial hearing is set for Wednesday.

"What's amazing about R. Kelly is that it really doesn't matter what he's going through personally," says Jones. "His talent, somehow, oozes its way to the hearts of women."

After all, this is the man who once sang: "My mind's telling me no. But my body; my bod-eee is telling me ye-heh-ess." With R & amp;B hits such as "Bump N' Grind," "Your Body's Callin'" and "You Remind Me of Something" -- his Jeep -- this man's repertoire is guaranteed to lower the defenses of some women.

Fan loyalty

Not Serena Kim, features editor for Vibe magazine. "I feel like he's a pervert," she says. "And you know, it's weird that he has so much power" despite his publicized sex transgressions, including his marriage, later annulled, to a 15-year-old Aaliyah. (Kelly produced her debut album, "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number.")

Maybe it is a lack of "self-love" among women or a desire to protect him. Or, says Kim: "Sometimes it's refreshing to have this truly eccentric pop star who brings this unique persona to the table. ... He's like a brilliant puzzle. Should I be concerned with what this artist does in his private time? If he does his job well, then what does that have to do with me?"

Jive Records publicist Roberta Magrini says the singer kept company executives in the dark about his "unusual" vision. "Trapped in the Closet" has no hook, chorus or precedent in modern R & amp;B. "The music business is pretty cookie-cutter, but he went off, completely, on another level," says Magrini. "Just straight-up storytelling from A to Z."

After Chapter 5 faded to black in BET's half-hour special, Kelly was shown loafing on a barstool, puffing a cigar, triumphant.

"Somebody deserves an Oscar," Kelly tells the camera. He swaggers out past pool tables and clapping bar patrons, and we hear a sample from Chapters 6-10, which have yet to be released.

The saga apparently continues, for the lovers and the haters.




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