PERFORMING ARTS

Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly

Abrams. Jun. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781419740077. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781683357629. performing arts
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Music journalist DeRogatis (Let It Blurt; Turn on Your Mind) describes his nearly two-decade investigation into R&B singer R. Kelly’s physical, mental, and sexual abuse of up to 48 girls and women. Growing up in Chicago, Kelly was sexually abused by his half-sister and an unknown man as a child. Since the early 1990s, he preyed on underage girls with the allure of breaking into the music industry. He hid this sexual abuse by paying off victims and making them sign nondisclosure agreements. Kelly made videotapes of his sexual encounters as trophies, including one with a 14-year-old girl, which made its way to DeRogatis. Kelly is portrayed as a cultlike figure who demanded total control over women, including what they wore and when they went to the bathroom. DeRogatis recounts the singer’s marriage to his 15-year-old protege Aaliyah and the 2008 trial that led to Kelly’s acquittal. DeRogatis lays some blame on law enforcement, the music industry, lawyers, and parents for failing to protect these girls.

VERDICT Individuals who have experienced abuse may want to avoid this book entirely. For readers interested in the cult of celebrity, the life of R. Kelly, true crime, journalism, and the #MeToo movement.

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