Results for R. Kelly


Jessica Hopper

Senior Pitchfork editor and music critic Jessica Hopper joins Jim and Greg in the studio for a discussion of her new book The First Collection of Criticism By a Living Female Rock Critic. This career-spanning anthology includes Hopper's controversial pieces on pop icons Lana Del Rey and Miley Cyrus, her famous Village Voice article on the R. Kelly controversy that emerged after an interview with Jim himself, and other notable reviews by the accomplished critic. Hopper discusses her start as a fifteen year-old fanzine writer, the challenge of separating the art from the artist, and the significance of the female voice in music criticism.

Go to episode 502

The Artist vs. the Art

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.”That is, should we judge an artist's output by their personal morals? Can you enjoy a song, when you know the person performing it has done some despicable things? This question is not new to music criticism. It applies to artists like Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Miles Davis and more contemporary artists like Pwr Bttm and R. Kelly. Jim and Greg are joined by journalist Britt Julious (who has written for the Chicago Tribune, Esquire, Elle, and others) and Mark Anthony Neal (cultural critic and professor of African and African American Studies at Duke) for a discussion about whether we can, and should, hold a musician's artistic output to a moral standard.

Go to episode 615

Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly

R Kelly One of the foundational tenets of Sound Opinions is that music is powerful and, in the best cases, music can save your life. We rarely talk about the flip side of a life saved by rock and roll on Sound Opinions, but the release of Jim's book Soulless: The Case Against R.Kelly, Jim and Greg thought it was time to examine one of those stories. In 19 years of investigating R. Kelly, Jim has found that Kelly used this same power of music for his own malevolent ends. Jim and Greg also discuss how music critics and journalists have played a part in minimizing R.Kelly's alleged misdeeds in the name of his talent. What obligation does the music community have to learn about the personal lives of musical heroes?

Go to episode 707
Double UpDouble Up available on iTunes

R. Kelly Double Up

One man that is always in the news is music star R. Kelly. The self-proclaimed "Pied Piper of R&B" has a new album out called Double Up. The Chicago native has sold more than 40 million albums in his career, but that's not the only reason he's making headlines. As Jim and a team of his colleagues first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, Kelly engaged in a number of sexual relationships with underage women (according to lawsuits those girls filed against him), and he is under indictment for making child pornography after allegedly videotaping one of these encounters. (He is still awaiting trial but has always maintained his innocence.) These charges have not affected Kelly's sales or his prolific rate of recording, and Jim notes that he finds it difficult to listen to the lyrics on Double Up while Kelly talks so cavalierly about sex and makes light of the criminal case. To Jim it's just not art — it's a disturbing look into a troubled psyche. Greg agrees that it can be difficult to separate the man from the music, and this has been a challenge throughout pop music. Musically though, Double Up feels a little played out to Greg. He describes R. Kelly as a masterful producer, but doesn‘t think the sounds on this album are as strong as those on his earlier efforts. In terms of the lyrical content, a lot of Kelly’s fans find humor in some of his freaky, over-the-top professions of lust. But, this time around, Greg hears much more of a mean spirit in his voice. He describes it as one of the worst R. Kelly records and gives it a Trash It.

Go to episode 78
Beauty Behind the MadnessBeauty Behind the Madness available on iTunes

The Weeknd Beauty Behind the Madness

Canadian R&B artist Abel Tesfaye spent several years as a mysterious underground phenomenon, releasing acclaimed EPs for free under the name of The Weeknd. After guesting on songs by his friend Drake, he's now become a star, selling out arenas behind his new album Beauty Behind the Madness. The Weeknd is a major voice in the new wave of neo-soul along with Frank Ocean, FKA Twigs, and Solange. Jim thinks his musical ability is undeniable, particularly in the moments when he is reinterpreting the sound and vulnerability of Michael Jackson. Yet on the more R. Kelly-inspired half of the album, Jim feels The Weeknd crosses the line from sexiness into lewdness, so he can't give the album more than a Try It. Greg agrees the sexual content of the lyrics is troubling, but believes Tesfaye is self-aware and ultimately critical of the attitudes his character expresses. The album represents a huge step forward musically, thanks in part to master pop producer Max Martin who managed to add hooks without watering down the darkness. Greg says Beauty Behind the Madness is a Buy It.

Go to episode 510
Raymond v RaymondRaymond V. Raymond available on iTunes

Usher Raymond V. Raymond

Usher is back this week with his 6th record called Raymond V. Raymond. The title is a reference to the R&B singer's divorce, and based on the content of the songs, Jim and Greg would say he's quickly back to being a playboy. Usher carved out a successful niche as a less threatening version of R. Kelly, but Jim thinks a few of the songs would make even Kelly blush. He calls it empty, tasteless, and worst of all-boring-and gives Usher a Trash It. Greg believes the singer should've known better. He has always admired artists like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, but is currently doing a poor job emulating them. There are a couple of tracks where he digs deep and explores his relationship issues, but Greg gives the rest of it a Trash It as well.

Go to episode 227
Watch the ThroneWatch the Throne available on iTunes

Jay-Z & Kanye West Watch the Throne

And speaking of collaborations, Jim and Greg review this year's most anticipated one: Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. Do these guys even need an introduction? If Jay-Z's highly lucrative past collaborations with R. Kellyare any indication, Jim bets the Throne album and tour will hurt neither artist's bottom line. But what about the music? While Greg admits nothing could have lived up to the hype, he's disappointed by how Jay-Z and Kanye have misread the tenor of the times. In a summer of high unemployment, economic turmoil, and foreign revolutions, they're still rapping about their wealth. Kanye's recent albums may be among the best of the past decade, and Jay-Z might be the greatest MC living, but Greg and Jim agree - this is a Trash It record.

Go to episode 298
Planet Earth

Prince Planet Earth

Lastly, Jim and Greg address Planet Earth, Prince's 24th studio album in nearly 30 years. On July 10th, Prince gave away the album as a free cover mount through the national UK paper The Mail on Sunday, stirring considerable controversy in the record industry. Jim and Greg discuss Prince's long disdain for major labels and his history of alternative marketing. Jim notes the sort of "funk-messianism" that precedes each Prince release. However, Planet Earth doesn't seem to offer much promise. Greg finds a decent jazzy ballad here, a good slow jam there, and complete re-write in "The One U Wanna C," but nothing sounds new in Prince's sound. Jim appreciates the old fashioned funk on tracks like "Chelsea Rodgers," but couldn't get past doozies like "Mr. Goodnight," which comes off as Prince imitating Ronald Isley imitating R. Kelly. The album is too inconsistent, so both hosts give Planet Earth a Try It.

Go to episode 86

Music News

The biggest music news story in recent weeks has been the R. Kelly child pornography trial. Last week the R&B singer was acquitted of all charges by a Cook County jury. Jim, who was ordered to court to appear but not forced to testify because of the first and fifth amendments, gave his thoughts on the verdict in his Sun-Times column. He and Greg are interested to see how Kelly's fans respond to the trial and what Kelly will have to offer with his next album.

Go to episode 134

Music News

R. Kelly surprised people by turning up in Chance the Rapper's closing set on the final day of the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago this past weekend, but it's his involvement with another, much smaller festival that has been making headlines. The Fashion Meets Music Festival (FMMF) of Columbus, Ohio, scheduled to kick off at the end of this month, originally booked Kelly as headliner of the three-day weekend celebration. However, the Columbus community and the event's sponsors met the news of the controversial R&B star's involvement with disapproval and condemnation. Kelly, well-known as the target of allegations of manufacturing child pornography, as well as dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct from young women, was removed from the festival bill last week. And this is one instance of an ongoing public conversation about whether or not you can support the art without supporting the artist. Jim has been at the center of this debate—with reporting that was captured in a Village Voice piece by Jessica Hopper. Kelly is certainly not the first (Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, etc.) to raise this question, and he won't be the last.

Go to episode 454

Music News

This year's Mercury Prize winner has just been announced. The Arctic Monkeys will take home the British music prize, following in the footsteps of PJ Harvey, Dizzee Rascal, Badly Drawn Boy and Pulp. The prize is usually awarded to a non-commercial artist as an alternative to the more mainstream Brit Awards. Jim suggests that the U.S. equivalent would fall between the Grammy Awards and the more-eclectic Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll. The Arctic Monkeys were a surprising choice because they were perhaps the most obvious candidates. To say they were a huge phenomenon in the U.K. is an understatement — their album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, was the fastest selling debut album in UK history. However, despite high profile appearances on Saturday Night Live and at the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, they did not wow American audiences on the same level. But Jim and Greg both gave the record a Buy It rating in their review.

Also making headlines is soul legend Ronald Isley. The Isley Brother, also known as“Mr. Biggs,”has been convicted of tax evasion. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3.1 million to the I.R.S — the maximum sentence he could have received. Jim and Greg had hoped that the judge would show some leniency to the musician, who recently suffered a stroke and a bout with kidney cancer, and is expecting a baby in January. Our hosts also cite Isley as one of the great talents of our time, noting that he has had a major hit in every one of his six decades as a performer. They suggest that it is Isley's friend, R. Kelly, who deserves the harsh hand of the law.

While“Mr. Biggs”can stay“Mr. Biggs,”even in prison,“Diddy”can no longer be“Diddy”in the U.K. The artist formerly known as P. Diddy, Puffy, Puff Daddy, and Sean Combs has agreed to drop the Diddy name as part of a legal settlement with a London-based producer named Richard“Diddy”Dearlove. Diddy became Diddy in 2001, but Dearlove had a hit under the name in 1997. Combs, however, announced that he can now add a new name to the list: Diddy is going to be a daddy.

Go to episode 42

Music News

This week Jim and Greg play scientist and talk to two professors, P. Jason Rentfrow of Cambridge University and Duncan Watts of Columbia University, about recent studies that seek to find out why we like the music we do. The first study asked college students to rate one another based on their favorite music. According to Dr. Rentfrow's findings, people who like music with a lot of vocals were found to be more extroverted. In addition, people who have eclectic taste in music were considered to be more open-minded and intellectually curious — a fact that bodes well for Sound Opinions listeners.

The second experiment conducted at Columbia University confirmed two widely held suspicions: Most people are sheep, and you can't predict a hit. Duncan Watts and his graduate students asked participants to go online, listen to a selection of songs and download what they liked. The results showed that people tended to choose songs which had already been chosen a number of times. This may account for why some songs stay on the Billboard charts for as long they do. The study also found that there was really no formula for song popularity. One song, "Lockdown" by 52Metro, ranked first in one test, but only 40th out of 48 in another.

The next story involves the perpetual newsmaker Michael Jackson. After Hurricane Katrina first devastated the gulf coast, Jackson announced that he would produce a single to raise money for disaster relief. Well, that was many moons ago, and the world has yet to hear a tune. Recently, however, an announcement was made regarding the song's status by the Prince of Bahrain, the king of pop's newly crowned representative. Sheik Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa, will release the record on his own 2 Seas label. While the song reunites Jackson with partner-in-crime R. Kelly, as well as Ciara and Snoop Dogg, it does not have the star power of previous releases like "We Are the World."

Go to episode 13

Music News

Every week Sound Opinions reports music news, but we've never before been in it. As many listeners are probably aware, this was a busy week for our host Jim. His reporting was central to the indictment of R&B star R. Kelly, who is currently on trial for charges of child pornography. So, on the day this episode of Sound Opinions was taped, Jim was required to appear in court. Upon advice of his Chicago Sun-Times counsel, he cited the first and fifth amendments and did not have to testify. Sound Opinions will keep you updated as the trial progresses, and we look forward to having Jim back next week.

Bo Diddley died this week at the age of 79. Greg discusses how much of an impact the former boxer made on rock and roll and how he never got the credit he deserves. This is largely because Diddley was ahead of his time, but by the time the Brits invaded the music scene, it was apparent what a musical stamp he left. Read Greg's obituary of Diddley here.

Go to episode 132

Music News

Lady Gaga has cancelled her "Born This Way" tour due to a hip injury. Millions of little monsters will be deprived of 22 national shows. And the Gaga camp might be out $35 million. With all the dancing and acrobatics, it's surprising more pop artists aren't wiped out by injuries which gives Jim and Greg a new appreciation for Tina Turner.

In other concert news, Paul McCartney will be headlining the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. He'll be joined by Mumford and Sons and Tom Petty, but also Wu-Tang Clan and Nas-some surprising additions to the traditionally roots and jam festival. Concertgoers will also be excited to hear about the Firefly Festival's plans for its second year, including theYeah Yeah Yeahs and Kendrick Lamar. Here in Chicago, the Pitchfork Festival has booked Bjork and in perplexing move, controversial hometown artist R. Kelly.

Finally, Jim and Greg bid farewell to songwriter and producer Shadow Morton. He was instrumental in bringing the Shangri-Las to fame with hits like "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember" that compressed teen angst dramas into three-minute pop operas. Shadow also later worked with Janis Ian and The New York Dolls.

Go to episode 378

Music News

Earlier this week, Jim published an in-depth piece on BuzzFeed about new allegations against R&B star R. Kelly that he is keeping women in controlling relationship and requiring them to sever communications with their families. The article details the allegations of two families who say their daughters have been“brainwashed”by Kelly and that he is controlling when they can eat, what clothes they can wear and who they can communicate with. Kelly, and at least one of the women in the piece, denies these allegations. Jim has reported on similar claims about Kelly going back to the year 2000.

Go to episode 608