In an election year, when power-hungry guys who don't believe in Jesus any more than I do are name-checking J.C. every chance they get (and before anybody goes making assumptions, let me just say that neither blue nor red has a monopoly on sick-making phony-ass piety, in this year or any other) and their friends on both sides of the aisle pay lip-service to a faith they'd abandon in a heartbeat if the public suddenly went Zoroastrian, it's heartening to hear the how-I'm-surviving declaration of somebody whose desperation is real. The child pornography case pending against Kelly is strong, and the 40-date tour he'll begin in October may be his last for some time. (Of course, I had O.J. down for twenty-five to life back in '95, so anything's possible.) Anybody who knows anything about juries knows that no amount of get-right-with-God grandstanding will overcome the public's revulsion toward pedophilia. So what does that leave? Either one of the most honest songs about religion ever sold for cash money, or a gesture so cynical that it indicts our whole culture. Either case is interesting enough to invest the song with real meaning, which is all I ever ask for — and what I almost never get — from pop songs. Keep watching. R Kelly may have something quite enormous ready to land next month.

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