I cannot believe that I haven't yet written about the most exciting social event in recent history: The San Francisco Film Society's presentation of a sing-a-long version of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet." In case anyone is not yet aware of this "hip-hopera," let me just say that it is a 22-part music video series, created by -- and starring -- R. Kelly, that chronicles the intertwined adulterous affairs of a bunch of different people, including Omar from "The Wire," with a narration sung entirely by the RK himself. It's not really worth trying to describe the plot (for background, read this very funny article from the New York Times --which describes it as a tale of "violence, infidelity, and violent infidelity"). Suffice it to say, though, that it starts off with R. Kelly hiding in his lover's closet brandishing a Beretta, and eventually involves a midget.
Anyway, on a very rainy Friday night, a huge crowd of people gathered in a performance space in San Francisco to watch the entire 22-part series and, the theory went, sing along to it. (This is made easier by the fact that R. Kelly uses the same beat, background and melody for the entire 'hopera.) Personally, I wasn't sure what to expect -- my last singalong experience was a "Sound of Music" screening in the Castro theater, for which they gave out goodie bags containing plastic springs of Edelweiss, and people dressed up as toast and jam. It was one of the best nights of my life. At Trapped in the Closet, the goodie bags were replaced by special R. Kelly condoms, printed with the tagline "Oh my god, it's a rubber (rubber, rubber)" -- which, if you've seen chapter 2, is hysterical. That pretty much sums up the difference between the two experiences. (Though, if there are any creative types out there with time on their hands, I'd highly suggest that someone do a Trapped in the Closet/Sound of Music mashup in which Julie Andrews and R. Kelly switch places.)
The night got off to a great start when the emcee came out and welcomed the crowd by singing his own verse of trapped in the closet, complete with falsetto, and then invited audience members to come up on stage and sing about their own days in the manner of R. Kelly. Having not forseen this audience participation, I was unprepared and hovered in the back, next to a large speaker, as some guy named Matt got up on stage and, well, totally rocked it. He must have been a plant. But I digress. My point in this post is to say, first, that if you are offered a chance to go to an R. Kelly singalong, I highly, highly recommend that you take it. And secondly, some of the more useful aspects of going to an actual singalong, instead of watching the entire series on your computer, are as follows:
-if you watch it alone, you will get confused and bored
-there will be no one around to turn to and sing, "shit, think, shit, think" every time a decision needs to be made
-you won't get an R. Kelly rubber
-you won't get to listen to the commentary provided by the emcee, which was not only funny, but quite useful. Like, for example, when he pointed out that while things make relatively good sense up to chapter 6, after that some point -- for some reason never fully explained -- R. Kelly switches from using the first-person to the third, suddenly morphing into two separate characters: the ethereal, white suited R. Kelly narrator figure, and the plot's protagonist, who suddenly starts being referred to as "Sylvester"
-the night probably won't end with a dance party
In summary, I highly recommend singalongs of all types, especially those that include free gin tastings and mandatory mid-screening dance breaks to "Bump and Grind." Two enthusiastic thumbs up.
This is the blog for Salt Magazine.