A few of the many artists R. Kelly collaborated with over the course of his 30 years in the music industry are taking action to distance themselves from the R&B singer, following the January 2nd release of Lifetime’s docuseries Surviving R. Kelly.
The six-part, three-day documentary examines the sexual abuse allegations that have been leveled against Kelly for over two decades through interviews with the alleged victims of his physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as his peers, activists, and journalists, all of whom speak about the controversy surrounding the singer. At the center of the allegations is a sexually explicit 2002 video that appeared to show Kelly having sex with and urinating on a teenage girl. Kelly denied it was him in the video, and in 2008, he was acquitted of the only charges brought against him — multiple counts of child pornography charges.
Following the release of the documentary, Steve Greenburg, an attorney for R. Kelly, said in an interview with the Associated Press that the singer denies all allegations of sexual misconduct towards women and underage girls. A representative for the singer declined to comment for this story.
“The allegations aren’t true because he never knowingly had sex with an underage woman, he never forced anyone to do anything, he never held anyone captive, he never abused anyone,” Greenburg said. He also said that neither Kelly nor Greenburg have watched the entire movie.
In the two weeks since the docuseries aired, many of Kelly’s collaborators have spoken out against the R&B star, expressing regret for working with him. Only a handful, however, have chosen to remove their music collaborations with him on streaming services.
On Tuesday, Chance the Rapper, who had previously called his 2015 collaboration with Kelly, “Summer in Paradise,” “a mistake,” pulled the song from all streaming services. His actions follow those of Lady Gaga, who both pulled her 2013 collaboration “Do What U Want” and issued a public apology the week previously for working with Kelly. Celine Dion, whose 1998 song with Kelly, “I’m Your Angel,” was platinum certified and held the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, removed the music video for the track from YouTube, although the song is still available on Spotify. According to Variety, a representative for Ciara confirmed that the singer is also taking steps to remove her work with Kelly from streaming services.
Many collaborators — such as Jay Z, Diddy, Mariah Carey, and Usher — have still kept their music with Kelly available. Following the release of Surviving R. Kelly, Billboard reported from Nielsen Music data that streams of R. Kelly’s music were up by 116% on January 5, the final day the documentary aired, in what might be seen as a manifestation of the Streisand Effect, a phenomenon that can occur when an attempt to hide, remove or censor information or material triggers the opposite effect. In the case of R. Kelly, the attention on the documentary didn’t harm his streaming popularity, it appeared that it didn’t stop it from rising.
Less than a year ago, in May 2018, Kelly’s streaming numbers saw a sizable increase after Spotify announced that they would not be “actively promoting” his music and would be removing it from Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations as a part of their updated policy towards hate content and hateful content. While it can be tricky to remove music from streaming services depending on who holds what credits, lead artists are a major part of whether or not songs can be pulled.
Here’s a list of the musical artists who have taken down their collaborations with R. Kelly so far.
Chance the Rapper, “Summer in Paradise” (2015)
In the final installation of Surviving R. Kelly, footage of an interview with Chance was featured where he says during in an interview with Jamilah Lemieux that “making a song with R. Kelly was a mistake.” He later issued a statement via Twitter that clarified his comments and re-emphasized his regret at the collaboration: “The truth is any of us who ever ignored the R Kelly stories, or ever believed he was being setup/attacked by the system (as black men often are) were doing so at the detriment of black women and girls,” he wrote. “I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out.” On Tuesday, January 15, Chance pulled his 2015 song with Kelly, “Summer in Paradise,” from streaming platforms.
Lady Gaga, “Do What U Want” (2013)
Though according to Dream Hampton, Lady Gaga declined to appear in Surviving R. Kelly, Lady Gaga issued a public apology via Twitter for working with R. Kelly on her 2013 song, “Do What U Want,” as well as a promise to remove the songs from all streaming platforms, which she has since done. In her apology, Gaga noted: “I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously. What I am hearing about the allegations against R. Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible.”
Celine Dion, “I’m Your Angel” (1998)
While Celine Dion has issued no public statement about her collaboration with R.Kelly, the artist pulled her 1998 song, “I’m Your Angel,” from YouTube and Apple Music, except for when it appears with R. Kelly as the lead artist. The song, which was originally featured on her holiday album, These Are Special Times, held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and went platinum with over 1.5 million copies sold. As of Wednesday afternnon, the song was still available on Spotify.
Ciara, “Next to You” (2004) and “Promise” (2006)
Reportedly to Variety, the singer is in talks with Sony Music “to see about having her collaborations with Kelly…be removed.” Sony declined to comment when asked about the report.
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