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Getting Ready For R. Kelly At Pitchfork: A Beginner’s Guide

20 Jul

The weekend is approaching, and you’ve bought tickets to Pitchfork 2013.  Amidst all the band names that involve either A) Plural Nouns (Woods, Savages, Swans, Metz), or B) Something Foreign-Sounding (Mikal Cronin, Toro Y Moi, Autre Ne Veut), you’ll see a familiar name: R. Kelly.

Saturday night, it’s all happening baby.

Maybe you’ve heard Aziz Ansari’s take on seeing Kelly in concert .  You’ve definitely heard of his sex scandal, but let’s not get into that right now.  The point is: have you heard the man’s stuff?

R. Kelly’s been making music longer than most of us have been alive.  There’s a lot of material there, and to try to sort through it all by this Sunday might be more than any one person can handle.  It would be a lot of R&B.

That’s where Yours Truly comes in.  I love R. Kelly (non-ironically, believe it or not), and I humbly submit a few key tracks to check out before Sunday.  Let’s get started:

“Ignition (Remix)”

Absolutely Ground Zero.  Kellz shuffles and glides over three minutes of summertastic beatz. The entire chorus is pretty much a mantra for How To Have The Best Night Ever, which is why it always seems like the perfect weekend/summer jam.  Who among us has not thought to him-/herself, “Like, so what I’m drunk/It’s the freaking weekend, baby, I’m ‘bout to have me some fun.”  This is also where we first learn that after the show is the after party, and after the party it’s the hotel lobby.  Helpful.  If you’re rolling up your sleeves and wanna play Historian, check out the original, “Ignition.”  You won’t be disappointed.

“I’m A Flirt (Remix) feat. T.I. and T-Pain”

Who knew piano could be so sexy?  When I read Charlie Brown, I just imagine Schroeder banging this one out, and it makes more sense to me why Lucy would be so into him.  I have to think that if Mozart had been aware of this song as an option, we might have wound up with a few less sonatas and a few more Mozart, Jr.’s running around.  Kelly explains in this one that you pretty much shouldn’t let any single women around him, because he ‘s “black, handsome, [he] sings,” and he will hit on her.  T.I. and T-Pain each offer up excellent verses, but Kelly himself brings us home, pointing out how your girlfriend “be calling you Kelly when your name is Tommy.”  Embarrassing, dude.  Just blink through the tears and keep grinding.

“Feeling On Yo Booty”

Once you’ve made it past the prerequisite 3-10 seconds of laughing at this song’s name, give it a chance.  This is probably one of the gentlest songs ever to have the word “booty” in the title.  You’ve got to give credit to R. Kelly for not being afraid to just say what’s on his mind, and it’s cajones-laced songs like this that prove there might just be a reason why he’s called the King of R&B.  Stick around all the way to the end for some incredible vocal ad libbing on the word “booty.”  And notice how you’re humming it mere minutes after the song’s end.

“Real Talk”

If R. Kelly’s catalogue is a TV show, “Real Talk” is the cult favorite sleeper episode hiding late in the 4thseason.  A gentle electric guitar coos over a persistent beat as Kelly speaks his mind.  Lyrics?  These aren’t lyrics.  This is an angry phone conversation, and we only get to hear his side.  His girl is way out of line, and he lets her know.  Not only did this song give us an incredible hashtag to add, ironically or otherwise, to pretty much anything you might ever say (“I don’t care who knows, I love mac n’ cheese #realtalk”), this is hands-down Kelly’s most-quotable song.  When R. Kelly throws his headphones down at the end of the song and calls to his chauffeur, Milton, to “start your car, warm it up, and get ready to take me home,” it is a moment as subtle as it is dramatic.  Kelly is upset, but he still wants you to know that he is rich enough to be having someone else drive him home.  Genius.

“Same Girl feat. Usher”

Apparently Usher and Kellz are BFFs.  Also, they are apparently seeing the same girl.  That’s the song in a nutshell.  Casually dropping adorable nicknames (“K,” “Ush”) and references to how rich they each are, the two sort through all the drama.  Their minds are blown, things will never be the same, and it’s our gain.  The video, too, is a must-see: pals U and K play basketball, drive fast cars, and raise incredulous eyebrows at each other.

“The Zoo”

If you make it to this song, you may start to question Robert’s sanity.  He takes a simple metaphor – we’re just like animals, we should probably just mate – and goes waaaaaayyyy deep into it.  How deep?  “Sexasaurus.”

“Fiesta (Remix) with Jay-Z”

It’s a real shame Kelly and Jay-Z’s early-2000s union didn’t ultimately pan out.  You can hit up Wikipedia and read more about why it didn’t, or you could STFU and be thankful we got a sweet party jam like this one out of it.  It’s got a Spanish title, so there need to be some flamenco guitars, right?  Right.  “Take three honeys just to make me feel rizzight,” explains Kelly at one point.  Fiesta, indeed.  Conveniently, the chorus is one word, so you can easily sing along while pregaming.

“I Believe I Can Fly”

The night’s over, you got, like four ladies’ numbers.  Now let’s have a good cry.  There’s really nothing much to say, except that this song speaks to a fundamental truth about R. Kelly: after all the silliness and macking and glamour, the dude can really, really sing.  That’s why a 4-bar drum beat and a song that pretty basically describes Everyone’s Favorite Dream Ever can make you want to go out and shoot free throws until you miss.

Sunday night is going to be incredible, guys.

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