Friday, January 16, 2004

Some of what Richard Goldstein says this week about R. Kelly and Michael Jackson is fairly on-target: man-boy love will always be seen as less "natural" than man-girl (or woman-boy, or woman-girl) love in this country (haha "this country," right, not any others, oh no), and it's worth noting if not shouting if not getting angry about. But the idea that Jackson is about to get dunked while Kelly floats on because of that and that alone blatantly ignores several key points. Number one, Kelly still looks like he did ten years ago--if he's had plastic surgery, it's as yet undetectable by me--whereas Jackson is for all intents a circus freak. Guess which option elicits public sympathy better? Two, even aside from the surgery Jackson's career for the past 15 years* has been one public-relations puzzle-cum-disaster after another; to date, Kelly has not aroused the confusion of middle America by attempting to buy the Elephant Man's bones, sleep in a hyperbaric chamber, or feed these stories to the tabloid media in order to keep himself in headlines during the protracted period between albums. Kelly may be the Pied Piper of R&B, but he's never erected a statue to himself in a foreign country or pretended to be the Messiah, surrounded by worshipping children, on the Brit Awards. Third, has there been a review of Chocolate Factory or The R. in R&B Collection that didn't mention the allegations? I mean, rightly so--if someone were to review a Kelly album for me and didn't mention it I'd write it in myself, simply because even if he is innocent it's central to his public image right now, and inescapable.

But the final and most important point is the simplest: flat-out, R. Kelly is making the best music of his career right now. Michael Jackson isn't. "As for Jacko: If he wants to save his career, he'll have to start fooling around with 14-year-old girls," Goldstein writes. Um, not hardly--if Jackson wants to save his career, he'll have to start making good records again. Period.

*Did someone say 20? '04 is the anniversary of the Victory Tour, after all.