DeRogatis...deftly illustrates Kelly’s alleged crimes against young girls, and does so while wielding facts with the mastery of a prosecutor. However, the facts are not the most alluring aspect of DeRogatis’ work. The appeal of this book is the emotion that winds between the evidence, binding facts and feelings the way tendons bind muscle to bone. We empathize with Kelly as we learn of his rise from adversity. We experience his alleged victims’ pain as they share their horrifying stories. We internalize the rage of a community that couldn’t protect its most vulnerable members. But for those of us who know Kelly’s music, this story is one that transforms us, much as it did DeRogatis ... Soulless does a marvelous job of giving voice to those who say they’ve lived this story.
If there is one thing that becomes abundantly clear after reading this deep investigation into R. Kelly’s horrific actions, it’s that it’s all too little, too late ... an infuriating, nauseating, and revelatory document of one man’s monstrous acts—and the society that allowed his monstrosity to go unchecked. If this book puts a spotlight on R. Kelly’s pathologies, it does so by condemning all the ways our systems of accountability have failed the girls of color who were under his sway ... often reads like a courtroom drama—except most courtroom dramas don’t let six years transpire between an indictment and the actual trial ... R. Kelly’s dirty secrets are revealed in this book, and so is the wide gap between true justice and the law ... Despite this bleak topography, there is something affirming about DeRogatis’ refusal to let the story go.
... a stunning account of harm done and dismissed ... while DeRogatis is uniquely qualified to lay out the case against R. Kelly in its entirety, he’s determined throughout the book to center the women and girls who have shared their stories with him ... Along with this need to do right by the survivors, DeRogatis takes seriously the responsibility of assigning blame where it is necessary, calling out the societal apathy and systemic failures that allowed R. Kelly to evade consequences for decades ... In the end, Soulless’s case against complicity is perhaps its most damning, as DeRogatis’ detailed account of the allegations against R. Kelly contains moments where R. Kelly might have been held accountable ... brings a good deal of new information to the table ... offers a wealth of important trial context for the many readers who are likely confounded as to how the R&B star was eventually acquitted ... there are other haunting themes that DeRogatis masterfully illuminates.
... not an easy read: It recounts, in excruciating detail, his alleged sexual misconduct toward multiple women, the alleged corruption involving Chicago police and city officials, and reports of the payoffs and favors that allegedly enabled Kelly to continue his behavior. It’s a near-definitive, if opinionated, account, and a must-read for anyone seeking answers to the many questions the situation provokes.
Soulless is excruciatingly comprehensive ... The veteran reporter recounts in vivid detail not only the depravity of Kelly’s alleged behavior, but also the insouciance—or worse, active support—with which his associates, fans, and legal gatekeepers handled him after it was revealed. Soulless implicitly challenges their characterization of Kelly as a despondent sufferer in need of nebulous, benevolent 'help' as opposed to accountability ... Should he be convicted of the felonies, Kelly could face a maximum of 30 years in prison. Soulless was completed before these charges were made public, but even without their inclusion, the book is a devastating, thorough accounting of Kelly’s alleged abuses as systematized predation. In explicitly outlining the multiple junctures at which Kelly, his supporters, law enforcement, and journalists have failed the dozens of young black women whom Kelly is accused of abusing, DeRogatis definitively—if also wearily—conveys the sheer magnitude of Kelly’s relative impunity.
The book is more than a straight-forward account of Kelly’s wrongdoing. Structured across three sections that roughly trace the evolution of the public’s view of Kelly, Soulless offers a dogged combination of biography, investigative reporting, and cultural criticism ... He is careful to center the stories of his sources, and to contextualize their experiences ... As much as Soulless is an account of Kelly’s misbehavior, it’s a finger firmly pointed in the direction of the people and institutions that enabled, and even encouraged, him ... There are some minor missteps: In acknowledging himself as a self-aware outsider, DeRogatis leans a little too heavily on self-deprecation ... But Soulless/em> manages to get at that central question that I believe helped prompt a reversal of favor for Kelly back in late 2013: Why do some stories connect while others don’t? ... Jim DeRogatis’ work, viewed as a whole for the first time in Soulless, challenges us to make sure the truth isn’t erased again.
... for more casual readers, Soulless is an important testament of DeRogatis' slog towards justice, and of the forces that have seemingly cosseted R. Kelly and his career in the pre- and post-#MeToo eras. It's also a journalistic indictment: of Kelly himself; of the political machinery of Chicago; and of the music industry — from hangers-on to promoters to record labels to critics — that not only allowed the singer to persist in public life, but to become a global superstar ... The last third of the book feels more hastily constructed than the earlier portions, but the rush to publish is understandable, given how much has happened in the first half of 2019 ... I'd hesitate to call Soulless a culmination of DeRogatis' efforts; I can't imagine that DeRogatis has any plans to step away from what's become an integral part of his life's work ... There are bigger questions that go well beyond the particulars of R. Kelly, too ... For anyone interested in #MeToo, this is an essential book. But don't look to DeRogatis for any glimmers of hope or triumph ... [DeRogatis'] dogged pursuit of the truth is riveting, as is his persevering drive towards something that might resemble justice.
... as much as this is an admirable account of Kelly’s inexplicable appeal, the city too busy to punish him, the black women advocates who refused to give up on our society’s moral debt, and the victims who bear its costs, this is a book about journalism ... When DeRogatis commits to the 'investigative critic' voice that offers that weighty truism, the book adds color to a story many of us feel we know all too well. His character study of Robert Kelly is a brutal corrective to R. Kelly’s myth: that he is a troubled soul who used his God-given talents to make himself over into a sexy, sophisticated auteur who seduced an entire culture into forgiving the peccadillos of an artist whose art demands he live beyond society’s moral boundaries ... The investigative critic voice so strong in some chapters would have lent much to others, where it is absent. From the outset the author is self-conscious and sometimes self-aware about what it means for a white guy to be working, so doggedly, the case against a celebrity black man ... He does a fine job of establishing trust with even a mildly sympathetic reader. Still, there are major turns in the book where it is clear that DeRogatis has a well-informed opinion, but he does not always trust his readers enough to share it. He couches it in a naïve observer voice that is as hard to believe as the cliché that precedes many of these instances in the book.
... a fiery, shocking analysis ... As much as the book is a juicy celebrity tell-all, it more importantly spotlights the women Kelly victimized and their separate journeys toward exposing their truths ... A piercing work of investigative journalism on a celebrity scandal that continues to fester.
Kelly is portrayed as a cultlike figure who demanded total control over women ... DeRogatis lays some blame on law enforcement, the music industry, lawyers, and parents for failing to protect these girls ... 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.