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Damning documentary gives R. Kelly a Spotify bump. And he still has a record contract

Damning documentary gives R. Kelly a Spotify bump. And he still has a record contract
[Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images]

1.9 million viewers tuned in to Director Dream Hampton’s Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly last week—and plenty of them have been expressing their horror to the (widely reported) allegations of the singer’s sexual abuse of young girls. It turns out that lots of people are also listening to R. Kelly’s songs, perhaps as they try to decide whether they can separate the art from the artist. According to The Blast, streams of Kelly’s music on Spotify have increased 16% since the premiere of Surviving R. Kelly on January 3.

Currently, Kelly has more than 5.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify and more than 1.7 million subscribers eager to listen to “Ignition (Remix)” or are perhaps looking for his 19-minute song “I Admit,” where he confesses to not writing his own music and being molested as a child, and denies allegations of pedophilia and statutory rape. (That one’s on Soundcloud.)

Last year, Spotify introduced a controversial hateful conduct policy that removed Kelly from some of its playlists in a response to the #MuteRKelly boycott. However, the effort didn’t cause a drop in his numbers on the platform. The Associated Press reported that it may have actually lead to a small growth in listeners. Three weeks into the new policy, after resounding criticism, Spotify reversed course and reinstated Kelly’s music. We have reached out to Spotify for comment about whether it is rethinking that policy in light of the heightened scrutiny.

Kelly’s lawyer, publicist, and manager dropped him last April. (He has new representation.) Kelly’s label, RCA Records, on the other hand, so has far refused to part ways with him, as Pitchfork reported last year. (Variety explored the various legal reasons RCA might be sticking with him.) At press time, the label had not responded to our request for comment about whether it will drop him now.

Other voices have been much less reluctant to speak up—and call out artists who have worked with Kelly in the past when they should have known better. Chance the Rapper, who collaborated with Kelly on the 2015 song “Somewhere in Paradise,” issued an apology via Twitter: “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. I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out.”

Kelly has denied the allegations against him. Now, TMZ reports that he plans to “expose his accusers for what he calls blatant lies being spewed on Lifetime’s docuseries.” He already has a Facebook page ready.

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