By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Six Flags execs should be envious of all the twists, turns, surges and plunges that have taken place in the five years since R. Kelly faced multiple child-pornography charges: They can't build as crazy a rollercoaster as the one the entertainer's life has become.
Since 2002, R&B's self-proclaimed Pied Piper has enjoyed successful singles, albums and tours. He has also endured relentless teasing from a public that convicted him years ago—and has engaged in social behavior bizarre enough to make Michael Jackson look well-adjusted. But which of these years has been the most tumultuous? We've simulated Kelly's ride below, with a note of caution to pregnant women and those suffering from heart conditions to kindly jump off now. Everyone else, hold on tight.
Highs: "The World's Greatest" (from the Ali soundtrack) is a top 40 hit.
Lows: A videotape sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times becomes the key evidence in charging Kelly with soliciting and producing child pornography. Insipid ballad "Heaven I Need a Hug" is released to radio.
Highs: Hella hit records—"Snake" (No. 16), "Thoia Thong" (No. 13), "Step in the Name of Love" (No. 9) and "Ignition (Remix)" (No. 2). The first two suck, but "Step" is a lively tribute to Chi-Town's ballroom dance style, while "Ignition" focuses on Kelly's crass humor: He wants to stick his key in your ignition, beep beep.
Lows: Sixteen more counts of child pornography are leveled against him (but are later dismissed).
Lows: Kelly gets thrown off a Jay-Z tour after becoming increasingly unhinged, the most curious incident finding him commandeering the cash register to serve bewildered customers at a McDonald's drive-through after the St. Louis show.
Highs: "Trapped in the Closet," Kelly's version of a mini-opera, is yet another hit and inspires a South Park episode.
Lows: His wife claims physical abuse and files for a restraining order but recants a few weeks later.
Highs: The "Light It Up" tour sells out venues and generates millions. A live DVD is filmed at Oakland's Paramount Theatre.
Lows: A street DVD featuring Kelly's brother Carey finds the sibling claiming that, a few years earlier, Kelly tried to offer him money, a house and a record deal to say that he was the one in the infamous videotape.
Highs: IFC airs parts 13 through 22 of Trapped in the Closet (with only a few critics decrying it as the obvious flogging of a dead horse). The album Double Up contains some of Kelly's best and cheekiest work and yields two top 20 hits: "I'm a Flirt (Remix)," a radio favorite featuring T.I. and T-Pain with brilliant wordplay; and "Same Girl," a skeevy slow jam wherein Kelly and Usher realize they're dipping in the same honey pot yet appear to be kinda stoked about it.
Lows: A burst appendix. Ouch. Kelly's longtime publicist Regina Daniels resigns with a press release stating that Kelly crossed personal and professional boundaries—later rumored to involve a sexual relationship with her barely legal stepdaughter. Kelly also dropped Ne-Yo from his current tour. Ne-Yo said he didn't know why he was let go, though bloggers speculated the newer, younger pop star might have been upstaging the headliner. Finally, a warrant was issued for Kelly's arrest in late December after he missed a court date (his tour bus was nabbed for speeding in Utah). Although the judge in the case didn't penalize Kelly, he did set May 9 as the day the singer's trial on child pornography charges will begin.
Verdict: Admittedly, Kelly's life lacks stability, but thrill jockeys are all about the unexpected detours of 2002, 2004 and 2007. With his trial and more hit songs looming, though, R. Kelly's wildest ride may still be ahead.