How much does the personal life of your favorite musical artist matter to you? Can you separate the artist from their music?
A friend (on a moral high horse, mind you) was speaking about R. Kelly’s fan base being predominately Black women. The latest video “Radio Message,” from his new album “Love Letter,” just dropped and after watching it online and seeing the extraordinary number of comments, she was all fired-up like it was 2002 again. (You know what incident she’s referring to, in short, there were explicit videos of allegedly underage girls having sex with this married man, remember.) I was content to let her vent, because I didn’t want to engage in a wishy-washy conversation that exposes my own contradictions.
Here’s the truth: I love R. Kelly’s music. Everything “Chocolate Factory” and before is on the other side of genius. (I bought it post-incident like three million other people, don’t judge me.) is Generation X’s the equivalent of Teddy Pendergrass’ “Teddy” (which included “Come and Go with Me” and “Turn Off the Lights). There is hands-down, no better “do me baby” album from that era. I’ll watch any awards show performance he’s on, but on general principle, I won’t spend any more money on his music or concerts, even though that song, “When a Woman Loves a Man” made me think twice about downloading it. Sigh…(I didn’t.)

And it’s not just Kells that causes conflict. Chris Brown is also challenging. His actions? Reprehensible! The new album? Incredible! I listen to “Look at Me Now” on YouTube, turn up the radio when it comes on while I’m driving, swivel my hips a little harder in club Goldbar when it drops over the speakers. Ugh!!! I feel like I’m not supposed to like C. Breezy’s music out of loyalty to my fellow women. But I do, I do, I confess, I so do. (Secret: I bought it. Clearly, I am not alone on this — he currently has two songs in the Top Ten on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart.)
Since we are being honest here, it’s not just the bad boys who make me feel this way. There is also Alicia Keys. Oh, how I wanted to stand in anti-Keys solidarity with her now-husband’s then-wife Mashonda and boycott the album on behalf of “The Sisterhood.” But then I heard the drums kick on “Sleeping with a Broken Heart” and even though I think it would have been better suited for Swizzy’s ex-wife, Mashonda. I had to give credit where credit was due and acknowledge Mrs. Keys-Beatz. She killed that song, and the whole dang album too.
I wanted to stand in righteousness with my girl and say how much the personal drama matters, but my eardrums and hips disagree.

What’s a woman to do?

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at Essence and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), which is IN STORES NOW.