After four hours of watching two men explain in-depth their experience of being sexually molested as young boys by Michael Jackson, I sat in silence.
I felt the same after watching Surviving R. Kelly.
R. Kelly and Michael Jackson have riddled me with confusion regarding their music.
Can we still listen, appreciate and enjoy songs like “I Believe I Can Fly” or “Billie Jean” after watching both documentaries, especially in the current #MeToo era?
Or, as a New York Times article asks, “Do you see this moment as a turning point — one that makes way for new art to be created and produced by those who have been historically ‘silenced and thrown out and kept from working by these predators?’”
R. Kelly is facing 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in connection with four victims. In the early 2000s, R. Kelly was on trial for making a sex tape with an underage girl but was acquitted.
After watching the documentary by Lifetime, it is very difficult to not find him guilty. His recent interview with Gayle King only worked to further portray him in a negative and aggressive light because of his emotional outbursts of anger that border-lined irrational.
However, some people, myself included, have found it difficult to dismiss the talent that brought us “Ignition” and “Step In The Name of Love,” among other chart-topping hits.
In an AP News article, Paul Riser Sr., a Motown Records alum who worked with Kelly and helped produce and direct “I Believe I Can Fly,” says he is troubled by the allegations but believes the victims.
The one thing that Riser said that really spoke to me was this: “We have to separate that—separate the man and his humanity and his faults and failures from his genius.”
But can we do that? When I remember the documentary that shows he is a serial sex offender, I can’t help but to question what to do or feel when one of his songs are being played. The music presents a moral dilemma.
I understand the argument that if you listen to their music, you’re potentially increasing their income. During this time while R. Kelly goes through trial, companies should not stream his music — to prevent him from further capitalizing on it.
But, how long does that boycott last? How much time is enough time? In a few years when this initial shock fades, if Apple Music or Spotify want to stream his music, I think I could listen to it and appreciate it purely for its musicality.
The allegations against Michael Jackson regarding sexual molestation of young boys have been around since 2004. I remember wondering why people loved a man who had an alleged fascination with young boys.
Eventually, in high school, when I started to appreciate music as art, I became a fan of Michael Jackson. He had died years before I started listening to him and because of his fame after his death, I forgot about his past.
After watching Leaving Neverland, I felt sick — I felt sicker than I did after watching the R. Kelly documentary. The fact R. Kelly’s recent victims (who can’t be named for legal reasons) will have their day in court offers some peace and justice.
For Michael Jackson’s victims, there has been so much speculation regarding the victims, Wade Robinson and Jimmy Safechuck, and why they testified on Michael’s behalf to his innocence during his 2005 trial, where he was later acquitted.
But Michael Jackson’s death creates unanswered questions. I do think Michael Jackson is guilty and the documentary is an important story, however, he can’t be brought to court and therefore I think people should accept it will always be a mystery.
The question remains, can I still jam out to “Thriller” and “Bad Criminal” after watching the documentary and believing the accusations, even though he will never be brought to justice?
I think part of the process of separating the art from the artist — if it even is possible — requires time. Since the allegations and the victims stories are so fresh in my mind, it’s almost impossible for me to listen to any of their songs and not think about those traumatizing stories.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to listen to “I Believe I Can Fly” or “Thriller” and appreciate it solely for its art and as music — but for now, I can’t.