R. Kelly has decided not to perform at Columbus, Ohio's Fashion Meets Music Festival, following scrutiny from local press, a radio station that withdrew its sponsorship and a band that backed out of its slot over the R&B singer's past legal strife and accusations of possessing child pornography. Kelly was supposed to perform at the festival on August 29th, but now both Kelly and the festival have released a joint statement to Columbus Alive about his departure.
"Fashion Meets Music Festival and headlining artist R. Kelly have come to the mutual decision to cancel Kelly's upcoming performance at the inaugural Fashion Meets Music Festival," the statement said. The singer's rep added, "R. Kelly is sorry to disappoint his fans, but looks forward to seeing them in the near future during one of his upcoming tours."
The announcement came following weeks of public outcry over his appearance. The Columbus-based folk rock group Saintseneca wrote on their website that Kelly's inclusion in the lineup "ignores his very serious allegations of sexual violence and assault" and that they were choosing not to perform on the same bill as him. Additionally, the electro-pop group Damn the Witch Siren also dropped off the bill.
Columbus Alive reports that, additionally, radio station WCBE ended its sponsorship of the event. The station's general manager, Dan Mushalko, told the website that it decided to do so based on feedback from listeners and because he felt it could reflect badly on the station's license holder, Columbus City Schools. "Obviously, since they represent children and teenagers, they didn't want us associated with the event if R. Kelly was a part of it," he said. "So whether you looked at it from our internal ethics, or the feedback from our listeners and the school district, it came down to everything saying, 'You just can't do it.'" He also urged other media outlets to start raising questions as they had.
"There was a lot of back and forth on the criticism we did receive, but then also looking at [Kelly] as an artist," a rep for the fest told Columbus Alive. "Then truly the last few weeks…the festival has taken a lot of heat, and we really just wanted to listen to Columbus and really take a stance and move forward."
Fashion Meets Music Festival said they will not replace Kelly on the bill, which also includes Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams, O.A.R., Rusko, Future Islands, The Menzingers and Maps & Atlases.
In 2002, Kelly was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography, a number that was later reduced to 14, after a videotape that allegedly showed footage of the singer having sex with an underage girl was sent to the Chicago Sun-Times. Prior to that, Kelly was briefly married to singer Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time. Six years after his indictment, Kelly's case went to trial, where his former assistant of seven years, Lindsay Perryman, testified that Kelly was in the video, as did Kelly's family and friends in May 2008. The next month, a Chicago jury found Kelly not guilty on all counts of child pornography charges after less than a day of deliberation, but within three days of the decision jurors said they believed Kelly was in the sex tape.
Since his indictment, Kelly has issued eight records, more than half of which have been certified gold or varying degrees of platinum. His most recent record, last year's Black Panties, debuted at Number Four on the Top 200.