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syleena johnson retiring r. kelly-written song

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After the premiere of Lifetime’s docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, news reports revealed that streaming numbers of the “I Believe I Can Fly” artist increased despite the fact that he has been repeatedly accused of sexual assault and endangerment of minors over the past several decades of his career. Many suspected it was due to fans being reminded of the R&Bs singer’s talent and artistry, but I suspect it’s because many listeners were trying to find lyrics in the songs that were hidden in plain sight pertaining to Kelly’s rumored objectionable behavior. When singer Syleena Johnson took another listen to one of her own hits, she was rightfully disturbed.

Johnson is one of the many artists along with Sparkle and Aaliyah that Kelly penned songs for in the past. In an interview with Associated Press, Johnson shares why she has retired one song in particular from her performance catalog. She shares that when she recorded her hit single, “I Am Your Woman” in 2001, she had no idea that Kelly was facing allegations of sexual assault and abuse from underage women:

“No, I didn’t tape the song knowing what I know now, but when you know better, you have to do better.”

In the song, Johnson sings from the point of view of what appears to be an adult woman reflecting on a relationship with a man she’s been involved with since she was a teen:

Now I’ve been dealin’ with you since sweet 16

Woman enough to let you raise me

You used to call me daddy’s ghetto queen

And you still mean the world to me

The song doesn’t mention the age of the love interest, but Johnson shares she believes the song advocates for relationships between young women and older men, something that especially given the circumstances of Kelly’s situation, she does not want to support:

“Essentially you’ve put me in a predicament where I’m a young woman talking about being with an older man. That’s what my song says. … So, when I see what’s going on, I’m in tears because I’ve been singing that the whole time.”

“I’m thinking of it as, ‘We 16, we grew up together, in a relationship together. But no, now that I know what I know that’s not what that means. How can I sing ‘I Am Your Woman’ ever again? It brings me to tears almost when I think about it.”

Johnson shared that there is another lyric in the song that although seems innocent enough, makes her very uncomfortable:

“I run to you like a corner store. Who runs to corner stores? Children.”

Johnson, who hosts the TV One show Sister Circle, goes on to shares that she’s retiring the song from her performing catalog, but it still pains her to thinks she played a part in unknowingly exploiting other women’s trauma:

“And just think, I’m the one singing it all these years, singing the praises of someone’s pain.”

“That’s hard for me to digest. That’s why I don’t be wanting to talk about it. That’s tough. Like, I can’t undo all those years.”

Johnson, who is daughter to legendary R&B Hi Records singer Syl Johnson, shares that although she and Kelly were label mates at Sony’s Jive Records in the past and he penned several hit songs for her, she was never the Kelly’s artist. She says that although Kelly never acted inappropriately with her, she will not stand behind someone who could be capable of such behavior:

“It’s very hard because Robert was like a big brother for me at one point in my career and we grew apart after a long time.”

“I’m a woman first. That behavior is unacceptable. I can’t stand behind it. I’m sorry. No.”

“I was never around him alone. There was always a bunch of people there. There were always parties or a bunch of people. I never encountered that. That’s why it’s a little heartbreaking but that don’t mean it wasn’t going on. My experience does not exonerate him from the other experiences that people are saying they have gone through because, hey, everybody ain’t lying. Man, come on.”

Johnson will however continue to sing the Kelly-penned song “Guess What”, a hit song from her sophomore album in 2002. Johnson says contrary to “I Am Your Woman” the song is empowering and positive and fans have approached her sharing the difference the anthem has made in their own lives:

″‘Guess What’” is a song that women have been empowered by because the lyrics are positive.”

“Women are coming up to me saying, ‘Guess What’ made me leave my relationship. He was beating me.′ Am I supposed to take that away from women?”

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