By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
Six Flags execs should be envious of all the twists, turns, surges and plunges that have taken place in the five years since R. Kelly faced multiple child-pornography charges: They can't build as crazy a rollercoaster as the one the entertainer's life has become.
Since 2002, R&B's self-proclaimed Pied Piper has enjoyed successful singles, albums and tours. He has also endured relentless teasing from a public that convicted him years ago — and has engaged in social behavior bizarre enough to make Michael Jackson look well-adjusted. But which of these years have been the most tumultuous? We've simulated Kelly's ride below, with a note of caution to pregnant women and those suffering from heart conditions to kindly jump off now. Everyone else, hold on tight.
Highs: "The World's Greatest" (from the Ali soundtrack) is a Top 40 hit.
Lows: A videotape sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times becomes the key evidence in charging Kelly with soliciting and producing child pornography. Insipid ballad "Heaven I Need a Hug" is released to radio.
Highs: Hella hit records — "Snake" (No. 16), "Thoia Thong" (No. 13), "Step in the Name of Love" (No. 9) and "Ignition (Remix)" (No. 2). The first two suck, but "Step" is a lively tribute to Chi-Town's ballroom dance style, while "Ignition" focuses on Kelly's crass humor: He wants to stick his key in your ignition, beep beep.
Lows: Sixteen more counts of child pornography are leveled against him (but are later dismissed).
Lows: Kelly gets thrown off a Jay-Z tour after becoming increasingly unhinged, the most curious incident finding him commandeering the cash register to serve bewildered customers at a McDonald's drive-through after the St. Louis show.
Highs: "Trapped in the Closet," Kelly's version of a mini-opera, is yet another hit and inspires a South Park episode.
Lows: His wife claims physical abuse and files for a restraining order but recants a few weeks later.
Highs: The "Light It Up Tour" sells out venues and generates millions. A live DVD is filmed at Oakland's Paramount Theatre.
Lows: A street DVD featuring Kelly's brother Carey finds the sibling claiming that, a few years earlier, Kelly tried to offer him money, a house and a record deal to say that he was the one in the infamous videotape.
Highs: IFC airs parts 13 through 22 of Trapped in the Closet (with only a few critics decrying it as the obvious flogging of a dead horse). The album Double Up contains some of Kelly's best and cheekiest work and yields two Top 20 hits: "I'm a Flirt (Remix)," a radio favorite featuring T.I. and T-Pain with brilliant wordplay; and "Same Girl," a skeevy slow jam wherein Kelly and Usher realize they're dipping in the same honey pot, yet appear to be kinda stoked about it.
Lows: A burst appendix. Ouch. Kelly's longtime publicist Regina Daniels resigns with a press release stating that Kelly crossed personal and professional boundaries — later rumored to involve a sexual relationship with her barely legal stepdaughter. Kelly also dropped Ne-Yo from his current tour. Ne-Yo said he didn't know why he was let go, though bloggers speculated the newer, younger pop star might have been upstaging the headliner. Finally, a warrant was issued for Kelly's arrest in late December after he missed a court date (his tour bus was nabbed for speeding in Utah). Although the judge in the case didn't penalize Kelly, he did set May 9 as the day the singer's trial on child pornography charges will begin.
Verdict: Admittedly, Kelly's life lacks stability, but thrill jockeys are all about the unexpected detours of 2002, 2004 and 2007. With his trial and more hit songs looming, though, R. Kelly's wildest ride may still be ahead.
7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 6. Scottrade Center, South 14th Street and Clark Avenue. $45 to $75. 314-241-1888.
Heads up, local DJs: Start constructing your best mixes to submit to the RFT's annual DJ Spin-off. During this event, some of the area's best wheels-of-steel masters compete to win a free trip to the Ultra Music Festival, a two-day extravaganza held on March 28 and 29 at Bicentennial Park in Miami, Florida. The festival (which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year) traditionally features the most talented artists in dance music — including local Scotty Mac, who won the Spin-off last year.
This year's RFT DJ Spin-off will be held Thursday, February 21, at Atomic Cowboy. A talented panel of to-be-determined judges will determine the winner by judging each DJ on song selection, crowd interaction, style and skills. To enter, send us a CD that shows off your mixing abilities — albeit one that's no more than 30 minutes long. (Sorry; I have to listen to each entry and, in the interest of time, shorter is better.) No online entries/mixes; we need actual CDs. Include your name, telephone number, e-mail address (and Web site, if applicable) with your entry. Remember, the Ultra Festival's focused on dance music (for the most part — yes, I know that alt-goth icons the Cure headlined last year) so we're looking for mixes geared toward that genre.
Most important, the mixes must be in my hands by 5 p.m. on Monday, January 28. Not postmarked, not en route, but in my hands. Entries can be mailed to Annie Zaleski, c/o The Riverfront Times, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130 — or dropped off at the RFT offices (same address there) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, attn: Annie Zaleski.
The nominees who will be at the Spin-off will be announced February 4. You can submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or see our music blog, A to Z (blogs.riverfronttimes.com/atoz) for the most updated information.
— Annie Zaleski