R. Kelly’s “When A Woman Loves”: when the music business goofs up and makes music

Something went wrong at Jive. And R. Kelly put on his booster rockets. This is other world. Or rather the real R&B world. Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and James Brown are smiling.

I’m a self-appointed wannabee music critic. Credentials: 14 years of violin + daughter of a man with a jazz collection that belongs in a museum + almost credible wannabee expert on Italian opera–mostly sopranos and mezzo sopranos–some of which I know by heart. After high school I wanted to attend Juilliard. I wasn’t prepared. Plus impatient.

But I love music. All kinds. This song by R. Kelly is a delicious freak accident of major record label doing. I say it because big labels mostly don’t do artistry, and hardly any R&B. They obstruct. They have formulas and repeat them to generate predictable returns. Like film sequels. Fixed income. It’s a bad business model for art (yes, I’m assuming there’s a good one). It’s how you build a plane or a widget but not create music.

I could write a longer post, but will just assert the following in no certain order:

  • Unlike your ipad, some shoes or your orange juice, this could never come from anywhere in the world but America.
  • Unlike math or history, it could never directly be taught.
  • When you study great practitioners who have come before you, it will show.
  • Daring to authentically differentiate amongst a sea of convention commands not only attention but brand respect.
  • America’s finest art began in the lowest place–the cotton fields–with a sound that still moves and which we have never abandoned: the field holler.
  • From Vera Hall murmuring, to Ella Fitzgerald scatting, to Louis Armstrong’s gruff vocals, American music, like visual and other art, isn’t just what you hear or what is even intelligible, or what you planned, but what you feel.

Click play. Because formulaic music outlets may not put this in rotation–despite a palpable demand signal (one need only see the hits and youtube comment stream). And the flute lines are hypnotic.

Here are my favorite comments on the video from Youtube:

  1. Lance said:

    >Unlike your ipad, some shoes or your orange juice, this could never come from anywhere in the world but America.

    And sadly that video will never be played anywhere buy America. It’s blocked elsewhere – or at least where I am – by Vevo, a company that I am beginning to dislike intensely.

    • teriabel said:

      That sucks really hard, Lance…and what’s the point even?

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