Enough about the Grammys - we're still on R. Kelly headlining Pitchfork



Now that the Grammys have checked in with another year of WTF TV moments, like choosing Fun. and Mumford & Sons over Frank Ocean in two key categories, let's get back to that music debate from last week - you know, Pitchfork's choice to have R. Kelly headline its big festival in Chicago this year.

In this office, when I opined that, for R&B, Ocean would be the more appropriate choice, a younger staffer - CL news editor Ana McKenzie - rolled her eyes and suggested Ocean would be more like the more obvious choice. Kells was just perfect for the annual indie bacchanal, she insisted.

Kells in 06
  • Nicholas Ballasy
  • Kells in '06

It ignited a debate that ended in her recommending that we call in an expert - in this case, Pitchfork contributor Andy O'Connor.

Was R. Kelly is the wrong choice for the Pitchfork Fest? Apparently not in an era when old mainstream is indie, new indie is mainstream and obscure doesn't carry nearly the cachet it once did.

Or, as Andy tells us:

R. Kelly and Pitchfork are two of the biggest musical forces in Chicago, so it's only natural that the Pied Piper of R&B is one of the headliners of the influential music publication's July festival. Our boy Kells is arguably the biggest name to hit the festival in its existence, and his inclusion is totally justified. "Ignition (Remix)," one of his biggest hits and a stone-cold classic, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and it hasn't aged a bit.

Cristal may no longer be in vogue, but "Cristal poppin' in the stretch Navigator" still comes out of many a drunken soul attempting to reach R. Kelly's heights. Put it on at any party, and the sweat will give the floor its most thorough polish in years. Can you imagine how turnt a festival of that capacity will get? And if '90s nostalgia is still raging, why not bring the man behind "I Believe I Can Fly"? It doesn't get more '90s than Space Jam.

Pitchfork has been championing the new wave of boundary-pushing R&B, namely Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, and R. Kelly's status as an R&B innovator makes him an ideal headliner. Who else could sing an argument with a girlfriend and turn it into a banger like "Real Talk"?

Going back to "Ignition": Kelly makes the comparison of a sexy lady to a football coach... work. He upstages newcomers who let him on their tracks, as is the case with Future's "Parachute." This line is unbeatable: "Her ass got a voice, and she sing a cappella." And then there's his "hip-hopera" Trapped in the Closet, currently enjoying a revival thanks to new chapters from IFC. Whatever your opinion may be of its actual musical merit, you can't deny R. Kelly's ambition with the project. Moreover, it gave the world a stuttering pimp. R. Kelly's quirks didn't come with any pretense of irony - he's just a freak and he wants to let the whole world know it.

If that's not enough, consider this: he goes way harder than Belle and Sebastian.

OK, so we'll get to the Grammys once we've had our coffee.

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