It’s time to stop singing along to Ignition on nights out
It doesn’t matter if it’s a banger
On every night out there are a handful of songs you're guaranteed to hear: "Be Faithful (Put ya Hands Up)", "Teenage Dirtbag", "Mr. Brightside", and "Shape of You" are all regular offenders. Another is "Ignition (Remix)" by R. Kelly.
Truth be told, R. Kelly himself is a bit of a relic from the 90s; "Ignition (Remix)" was his last proper hit – and that was in 2002. That being said, the track has a seemingly infinite shelf-life and will probably remain comfortably nestled in club playlists until the inevitable heat death of the universe.
It’s a text book club classic and every DJ who queues it up in a room full of students knows it will get a good reaction. But R. Kelly is literally under criminal investigation for manipulating young girls into controlling, violent and sexually abusive relationships. The traumatised women involved have spoken publicly about their horrific experiences. Any DJ with a shred of awareness shouldn’t be playing his music, because every time they do, they’re passively promoting his alleged abuse.
It is claimed that R. Kelly manipulates and traumatises young women
You might be a bit more clued in if you use Twitter, since discussion about R. Kelly has ramped up again in the wake of an American documentary, "Surviving R. Kelly". It's not the first of it's kind, either – for several years now, journalists have been working to uncover the alleged "sex cult" of young girls at which R. Kelly is of the centre.
An investigation originally published in BuzzFeed News tells the story of parents "in a desperate fight to bring their daughter home", after she was manipulated into entering a toxic relationship with R. Kelly. The parents claim: "He controls every aspect of their lives: Dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records."
In "Surviving R. Kelly", girls revisit the experiences of being brought into his circle, usually with the promise of a music career, only to find themselves being recorded having sex with him, being forced to call him "daddy", and getting slapped in public for talking to other men. R. Kelly has repeatedly denied the allegations.
It's unbearably bleak viewing, and there's loads of material out there if you want to learn more about the accusations against the man behind "Ignition". Even though R. Kelly has managed to dodge prison, there have been consequences – his music has been pulled from playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. You can still find it and stream it, obviously, but it's rare to see music industry behemoths do anything but ignore problematic artists.
Playing 'Ignition' profits R. Kelly in more than a financial way
Whether it's on Spotify or not, are you really listening to R. Kelly in your day-to-day life? His wider discography is hardly classic among students. Oddly enough, this recent slew of coverage, regardless of how badly it portrayed him, has actually boosted his streaming numbers. This would seem to suggest people are doing their own investigation into R. Kelly, even if that does inadvertently profit him.
At the end of the below clip from BBC3, R. Kelly boasts about how "injecting the world with beautiful music" allows him to brush off the negative press. He doesn't just mean this in a "fuck the haters" kind of way, either – every time a DJ streams the Ignition remix, he gets literal money.
The classic counter argument flung at those calling for R. Kelly's music to be binned off is that we should separate problematic artists from their songs. This is fair enough when you're deciding what to listen to through your headphones, but you never hear XXXTentacion on a night out. Ignition's ubiquity in student clubs on the other hand is unmatched.
People get with each other in clubs, which is why songs like Ignition will have a place there as long as they exist, but they are also spaces in which 91 per cent of female students have admitted to being groped. To that end, routinely playing a song by a man who not only epitomises this culture but allegedly takes it to it's ugliest extremes is ridiculous.
So this is an open appeal to all DJs, whether you're a professional at Swingers or putting together a Spotify playlist for pres, just leave R. Kelly in the 90s where he belongs.