For more than a year, I have been waiting for R. Kelly to take a break from (allegedly) peeing on young girls so there would be more Trapped in the Closet in my life. Unfortunately, the reunion on IFC.com — which began posting new chapters of his long-form music video/soap opera every day August 13; chapters 13-22 were released on DVD August 21 — left me yearning for Kelly's earlier work.
Kelly has been employing multipart dramatic narratives in his music for some time. Even 1995 hit "Down Low" had a lesser-known sequel song, the Isley Brothers' deliciously over-the-top "Contagious." In Closet's early stages, Kelly's narrative was limited to cheating lovers and gun-toting thugs, but as the chapters kept going (and going...and going...) he tossed midgets and bathroom humor into the mix. Now any sign of his more down-to-earth characters — or any tether to reality, period — has been abandoned for lines like "you're crazier than a fish with titties."
Along the lines of Melrose Place and other pop-culture phenomena of lovers and losers, this series has gone from campy to crazy real quick. Don't get me wrong, Melrose's Kimberly (Marcia Cross) pulling off her wig to reveal that gnarly head wound may have been the highlight of the entire '90s, but seeing Kelly dressed up as Randolph, elderly husband of neighbor Rosie, passing gas and covered in clumps of gray cotton in lieu of hair, is just too much.
The best thing IFC's Web site offers is "Chapter 12.5," an opportunity to "reminisce" with Kelly. Dressed in all white, he pops up superimposed throughout older chapters to recap (in song, of course) the drama that has gone down so far. Those of us who have already spent quality time with the first DVD's bonus features will be reminded how comforting it is to have him over-explaining everything that's already been clearly stated both onscreen and in his lyrics.
Since Chapter 13 went up, I've been checking in daily, hoping — so far in vain — Kelly gets back to the serious side of things, or maybe comes up with a sequel to "Same Girl," the story-song duet with fellow R&B luminary Usher featured on Kells's latest album Double Up. One thing's for sure: Mad TV and similar sketch-comedy shows will have a hard time creating any further parodies of the Closet series, because Kelly has beaten them to it.
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