For the past decade or so, R&B superstar R Kelly has watched his reputation take a lot of serious shots. From criminal allegations to PR troubles to rumors and accusations, Kelly has faced a withering PR beating many times in recent years.
Despite these reputation ups and downs, Kelly has continued to record and perform, in some cases collaborating with other big names in the music business. That said, a Lifetime Network series, “Surviving R. Kelly” has new questions being asked and old allegations resurfacing. The series also has some performers expressing doubts and regrets about their collaborations with Kelly.
In one recent example, music superstar and recently celebrated actress, Lady Gaga, has come out expressing regret over her 2013 duet with Kelly. In a pointed apology, Gaga said she intends to strip the song from streaming services: “What I am hearing about the allegations against R. Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible…”
Gaga did step back from the apology a bit, explaining that the song had come out of a “dark time” in her life: “I think it’s clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time. If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self I’d tell her to go through the therapy I have since then so that I could understand the confused post-traumatic state that I was in… I can’t go back, but I can go forward and continue to support women, men, and people of all sexual identities, and of all races, who are victims of sexual assault.”
The statement, heartfelt though it may be, probably won’t speak as loudly as Gaga removing the song from her catalog on streaming services. While the apology is likely to be greeted warmly and accepted by fans, the fact that she is taking a financial hit will speak loudly even to those who do not know or appreciate Gaga’s music. She is, for all intents and purposes, putting her money where her mouth is.
That’s a strong, active statement, and a definitive move to distance herself from any past or potential association from Kelly, whose brand is sinking due to the Lifetime series, as well as the rehashing of the various allegations against him, including those of sexual conduct involving underage girls.
It should be stated clearly that these are allegations, not convictions, and that Kelly strongly denies any of the allegations involving underage girls. That said, while, legally, he can’t be sentenced without being convicted, his reputation is undeniably tarnished.
There was a time when allegations of these kinds against a star would typically be dismissed by fans, who would buy and consume their art anyway. These days, though, that behavior is trending in the opposite direction. People are acting more on allegations before anything is confirmed.
This dynamic likely played into Gaga’s recent decision to pull the five-year-old song, and it should inform how Kelly approaches this situation. Today, it may no longer be enough to simply deny allegations. You have to make people believe, not just want to.
- 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian