On Monday, disturbing allegations surfaced that R. Kelly has sequestered several
young barely legal women from their families, and is sexually exploiting, brainwashing, and manipulating them in a cult-like fashion. The report, which came from Buzzfeed News, claims that the women—all aspiring singers—live in R. Kelly’s private homes, and are given rules about how they can dress, interact with other men, and how often they bathe.
It’s a pretty surprising story—until you remember R. Kelly illegally married Aaliyah when she was 15, he’s been accused of rape several times, and is seen in a sex tape peeing on a girl who was allegedly underage. Still, when a story is this big, of course every media source on the Internet is going to try to get in on the action. But since they can’t go back in time to break the story first, they have to settle for posting a hot take (or, ahem, commenting on the hot takes…): We should stop partying to ‘Ignition (Remix)’! (Gasp!) Sex crimes aren’t funny! (OMG!) R. Kelly is a modern day Charles Manson! (Wait what?)
Here’s a roundup of the journalists who one-upped the controversy and had us clicking on their buzz-worthy headlines.
THE TAKE: “It’s our favourite karaoke song. A throwback for when we’re feeling nostalgic. It’s on every good party playlist, and a top choice for aux-cord DJs like myself. Since its release in 2002, R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” has been a top-tier American anthem.”
THE TEMPERATURE: Damn. This eulogy for R. Kelly’s greatest hit is heartfelt and heartbreaking. In celebrating the achievements of his greatest hit, we realize how hard it is to separate the art from the artist. ‘Ignition (Remix)’ will outlive this story, and then it will outlive us all.
THE TAKE: “Talk about many well-known cults has emerged in the wake of a Monday BuzzFeed report claiming R&B singer R. Kelly is housing at least six women in the suburbs of Atlanta and Chicago as some form of sex “cult.”
THE TEMPERATURE: Uhm, are people really posting a slide show titled “Check out some of the most infamous cults in history” with a story about R. Kelly? Connecting the R&B singer with The Manson Family and The Children of God isn’t just a stretch, it undermines the issue and muddles an important conversation. It seems that the author saw that word “cult” was trending, and repurposed a pre-existing slide show without actually reading into the accusations against R. Kelly.
THE TAKE: “In his autobiography, Robert Kelly admits that his own sexualization began with abuse at the tender age of 8. He recalls being instructed to watch and photograph adults having sex, being raped “repeatedly for years” by an older woman who demanded his silence and possible later abuse by a man—all before he ever reached Kenwood Academy. When we consider how his own pathology evolved from that point, isn’t it worth considering how many daughters could’ve been spared if his own childhood had been protected?”
THE TEMPERATURE: We don’t necessarily need a comprehensive timeline telling us that R. Kelly has a long history of sexual misconduct. But looking at what provokes R. Kelly’s predator tendencies? That’s an interesting new take, which paints R. Kelly as a troubles soul rather than a criminal. Men aren’t born perverts, they become perverts.
THE TAKE: “When the only criticism from Hollywood is a parody song of Kelly (played by Dave Chappelle) gleefully singing about peeing on girls on Chappelle’s Show, or a foul joke about Kelly pissing on Blue Ivy in Difficult People, you realize that Kelly’s disturbing antics are never treated with the severity that they should, and that the industry has offered up his serial abuse of young girls as a punch line, and not something worthy of condemnation.”
THE TEMPERATURE: Comedians aren’t maintaining politically correctness? They’re offending someone with their inappropriate take on popular culture? Yawn.
THE TAKE: “It’s important to note that Kelly, unlike other high-profile cases of celebrities accused of abusing their position, has never shied away from a highly sexualised image. He is not the nation’s father who betrayed our trust like Cosby or Saville. Kelly’s entire brand is sex – sometimes loving, sensual, but sometimes dirty, taboo, nasty.”
THE TEMPERATURE: That’s a pretty good point. We’re used to seeing R. Kelly surrounded by women who worship him. Try to picture Bill Cosby on a yacht, wearing gold chains, being groped by girls in bikinis. It’s weird right?