Monday, August 20, 2007

R. Kelly- still trapped in video and in his personal life

What do Richard Wagner, Charles Manson and R. Kelly have in common? There have been few artists whose repulsive personal life has made it so hard to enjoy their art as much as all of them (Chuckles was an aspiring songwriter who caught the Beach Boys' ear, remember).

At first, Kelly's Trapped in the Closet series seemed like a bizarre, unique idea: "an urban R&B soap opera," as it's been called. It was audacious, bold and pretty strange as he took a very minimal song and stretched it out to different chapters, each having its own cliff-hanging climax which led to the next part. After collecting the first few on record and then the first 12 onto a DVD, he decided to extended it, releasing a new chapter a day at IFC Channel (which is a interesting marketing idea as it's not an expected or obvious medium for this and it also sets him up as a mini-cinema star now). He's managed to keep things strange so you're usually not likely to guess what's coming next and he's taken some interesting turns lately (like taking it to church with a pimp) and soon this latest set of chapters will appear on its own DVD tomorrow (again, very canny marketing). And he's not saying how far or long he's going to take this (though a possible prison sentence might put a damper on that).

One mark of greatness (or at least its cultural significance) is all the funny parodies it's inspired (i.e. Mad TV's Trapped in the Cupboard and Weird Al's Trapped In the Drive-Thru). The one problem with R.'s latest chapters themselves is that like William Shatner doing his "singing" career again, he knows how ridiculous some of this is and he plays up to that, which doesn't make it quite as appealing as before. But that doesn't mean I won't keep watching this.


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