In June 2005, R. Kelly released to radio the first audio sections, or songs, of his 16 minute 5-part mini soap opera. The songs became r&b hits and generated even more interest as accompanying video became available. With the release of R. Kelly's latest album TP.3 Reloaded, a bonus DVD is included of all 5 video segments. As TP.3 Reloaded registered sales of almost 500,000 copies in its first week, "Trapped In the Closet" has experienced a resurgence in popularity...and discussion about its content.
"Trapped In the Closet" parts 1-5 may be among the most unconventional hit songs ever. Each part of the saga is a dramatically performed reading of the story over a minimal pulsing musical background. R. Kelly himself portrays all of the characters. Each segment finishes with a cliffhanger leaving the listener eager for the next part of the story. R. Kelly has referred to "Trapped In the Closet" as a ghetto Desperate Housewives.
Controversy has erupted centered around the content of "Trapped In the Closet." The story details a tangled web of extramarital sexual relations. Along the way closet homosexuality, gun violence, moral standing of clergy, judgement of others in relationships, and violation of personal property are just a few of the issues that make an appearance. Some individuals have expressed concern over the frank sexuality discussed in the story while others are concerned about the negative image of the clergy promoted by the song suite.
Aside from the controversy and attention, is "Trapped In the Closet" art? Despite his sordid history and current indictment on child pornography charges, R. Kelly is clearly among the most gifted songwriters and performers currently recording. It's nearly impossible to avoid being pulled into the story with a carefully constructed cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. Like some of the best soap operas, "Trapped In the Closet" also provokes laughter at the near absurdity of the tangled web portrayed. Finally, the issues touched on by the 5-part suite are serious indeed and the drama is likely to provoke needed discussion. Despite any personal opinions about R. Kelly, it must be conceded that "Trapped In the Closet" is likely to stand as a popular music landmark.
The best way to experience R. Kelly's dramatic creation is to view the videos back to back. They are available, as mentioned above, on a bonus DVD with purchase of the album TP.3 Reloaded. Alternatively, they can be watched at R. Kelly's official web site. The complete story line of "Trapped In the Closet," including plot spoilers is available at Wikipedia.
The bonus DVD with TP.3 Reloaded ends with the enticing statement that parts 6-10 will be coming soon...