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R. Kelly Baffles New York Audience Explaining "Trapped in the Closet" At New Chapters' Big-Screen Premiere

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Last night, R. Kelly presented the New York big-screen premiere of “Trapped in the Closet: Chapters 13-22 — Spoiler alert: None of it makes any fucking sense, but you probably already guessed that. Kellz himself showed up, in a surprisingly jovial mood given his usual moody persona and legal troubles. "Nobody can explain this song, not even me," he told the crowd. "I can explain some of my other songs, but not this one." He went on to call the song "my alien" and said that when he starts writing, he has no idea what's going to happen from line to line — when he brought the midget into the song, he thought it was all over, because he had no idea what to rhyme with "midget," until a week later he realized he could name another character "Bridget." Much better than Inside the Actor's Studio, no doubt.

So what happens in the new chapters? A brief summary of the story so far ("oh shit!") leads to Sylvester in the car with Twan ("you crazier than a fish with titties"), a rendezvous in a diner, a waitress with a tell-tale name tag, a church choir chanting "You can do it, Pimp Luscious," and a blatantly Sopranos-styled sit-down with an Italian mobster who keeps saying "fuggedaboudit" while calling Twan "LL Fool J" and grunting, "Mama said knock you out the fuck outta here." There's typically over-the-tippity Kellyesque dialogue ("Do I look like En Vogue, because the way you got me holding on?"). There's also a flashback to Twan's drug bust three years earlier, when he was getting high in the car screaming, "I'm Rick James, bitch!" Which was the catchphrase of 2004, though come to think of it, isn't this song taking place in 2005, which would mean Twan was saying "I'm Rick James, bitch!" before the Chappelle show even started? Or did we just flash ahead a couple years? Is this song all taking place on the same day?

There are still so many unanswered questions. Why does everybody in this song answer their phone, even if they're, like, waving a gun in a four-way stand-off at the time? Why does Kelly's old-man beard keep sliding off his face? Why does Kelly use the silly and insulting nineteenth-century circus term "midget," not a cool thing to call a dwarf or anybody else? Especially when so many awesome words rhyme with "dwarf"? Why don't either of the lesbian waitress tae-bo aficionados turn out to be dudes in disguise, instead of just one of them being pregnant with Twan's baby? (Oh shit!)

Kelly himself plays a preacher, a church janitor, a white-suited omniscient narrator who comes and goes at random moments, and a stuttering pimp in purple shades who comes to church looking for the "ho-ho-ho-holy ghost." I could have used more of Big Man, frankly, whose battles with asthma, intestinal distress, and the day-to-day struggle of life down at Dixie's Strip Club demand further explication, whether or not he's the daddy of Bridget's baby. There's too much church for my taste, and way too much of the nosy neighbors. The cliffhanger ending, which restyles the phone-tag "Goin' Steady" number from Bye Bye Birdie, ends with the message, "To Be Continued." But clearly, twenty-two chapters of "Trapped in the Closet" is nowhere near enough.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Rob Sheffield

Rob Sheffield is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where he writes about music, TV and pop culture. He is the author of two books, Talking To Girls About Duran Duran and Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.

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