Friday, June 20, 2008

Well, last night there had been rumors of a dinner with Cousin Sue and Uncle Donald, but apparently those rumors were greatly exaggerated (they ended up going to the Round Rock Express game instead). I did, however, go over to Kim and Sig's place, along with Jennifer, where we watched R. Kelly's hip-hopera, "Trapped in the Closet".
For those of you who've never seen Trapped, it's a long, very involved story about a series of romantic love triangles, eventually involving gunplay, midgets, pimps, clergymen, ex-cons, and- well, hell, you really have to see it if you're that interested in the plot. The entire thing is sung in a long, unchanging (at least in terms of rhythm and, I think, basic musical structure), R&B style monologue which sometimes rhymes (although it often doesn't) and includes R. Kelly impersonating the voices of a number of characters who appear in the narrative.
I saw this thing last night, and I'm honestly still not sure what to make of it. It was definitely different than anything else I've ever seen and a fairly unique project, but I still can't get my mind around whether it was really something worth doing in the first place. There were definitely some very funny moments in Trapped, but I don't think I would call it a comedy, on the whole (or I don't think it's meant to be a comedy).
Not really being a fan of R&B, I'm probably not the best person to sit in judgment of Trapped. But I have questions. It's almost as if R. Kelly knew that he could get away with singing this big, long piece in an R&B style, and that somehow in that genre he could fly under the critical radar in a way that people wouldn't have made allowances for in any other musical style (I think that if some folk or rock singer went off on an unchanging, one rhythm, rambling narrative for over an hour and a half and then tried to describe it as some sort of opera, it probably would have been much more quickly dimissed, but R&B has seemed to have had a trend in recent years, in having extremely literal, typically unrhymed lyrics, focusing almost solely on the voice of the singer, almost to the exclusion of most other musical considerations).
Anyway, my impressions of Trapped in the Closet were mixed. On the one hand, I was intrigued by the whole idea of it and impressed by aspects of its execution (the film that depicts the events in the song was very well done, including some pretty good acting and an appearance by Michael K. Williams, who played Omar Little on The Wire). There were parts of Trapped that were really funny (some more intentionally funny than others, but I laughed really hard at good parts of it). And there's no denying the fact that it took the entire idea and its execution were quite imaginative. On the other hand, there were times when the whole thing really dragged, and when I got confused as to exactly what was going on with all of the soap opera melodrama occurring between the characters (and I didn't feel like I really cared enough about the characters or the fairly ridiculous plot to want to expend a lot of effort keeping up with all of the plot twists). The music also started to wear on me after awhile. Trapped is over an hour and a half long, I would guess, and the tempo and rhythm of the thing never really changed (I was practically hearing it in my sleep last night). R. Kelly sings the thing capably, but without any real melody. He's a talented enough singer, but his lyrics just sound like someone talking in a sort of sing song style (I know- it sounds like a cool idea, but once you listen to it for an extended period, you start to question whether this sort of thing really involves a lot of talent, or whether this is just some way for R. Kelly to show off his voice without having to come up with lyrics that have any sort of literary or poetic quality to them- the lyrics in Trapped are, at their best, just funny, and too often I felt like I was laughing at R. Kelly instead of with R. Kelly).
Well, I've given this way too much of my time. I'm glad I saw Trapped. Not sure I need to see it again, and unless he decides to at least break down the various portions of his future "hip hoperas" into songs that have varying rhythms and a bit more melody, I'm not really sure I need to see his next edition of Trapped (it was an interesting experiment, but once is enough for me, I guess). But now that R. Kelly has beaten that statutory rape case he's been fighting, I'm sure we can look forward to future hip hoperas that he'll be sending our way.

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