R. Kelly's 5-part, 16-minute epic song "Trapped in the Closet" tells a story of infidelities, deceptions, secret lives. In the first of many plot points finds Kelly hiding in the closet of a woman who is not his wife; it is his cell phone--not set to vibrate--that eventually gives him away. The narrative winds its way through more than one love triangle and through the personal lives of half a dozen characters. Kelly's narrator tells the whole loosely structured story without verse or chorus, his vocal lines more like a great jazz soloist than an R&B songman or a rapper. Over a quiet, sparse beat, Kelly's voice flutters and soars, speak-singing down low or in falsetto, then building to a giant, growly-voiced crescendo at the end of each song. Each single advances the story, and each ends with a cliffhanger. The story itself is pulpy and captivating and the level of detail is so minute as to be bizarre. Here is a sample interchange in which the woman's husband's cell phone rings:
But while some of the detail is excessively naturalistic, at other times it is bright and shining poetry. The husband confronts Kelly's character:
He picks up, and somebody says "Sweetheart, I'm downstairs."/ And he's like, "I'll buzz you up, I'm on the fifth floor, hurry, take the stairs."
When it comes, the ending is a little anti-climactic, but Kelly's point about the complexity of relationships is made. "Trapped in the Closet" is a sort of morality tale without a moral, filled with lurid characters and high drama, half R&B hit, half one-man radio drama.
He says, "Something I bet you didn't know, my man. Did she tell you that I was a pastor?"/ I said, "Well good, that's better, right? Why can't we handle this Christian-like?"
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