Kelly Rowland just released her newest song and isn't her being sexy, which she's been pretty good at lately. No, it's one of the more emotionally explicit songs about abuse and fame we've heard since Mary J. Blige's classic records.
"Dirty Laundry" takes us back a decade ago. Rowland talks about being happy for Beyoncé's success as a solo artist "post-Survivor", but describes having something much heavier weighing her down: an abusive relationship. Because of Beyoncé's success, Rowland had confusing feelings about the way her own life was going and found it difficult to confide in her long-time friend about what she was going through:
While my sister was on stage/killing it like a mutherfucker/I was enraged/feeling it like a mutherfucker/bird in a cage/you would never know what I was dealing with/went our separate ways/but I was happy she was killing it/Bittersweet/She was up/I was down/normally I feel good for her but what do I do now?
Forget the record/because off the record I was going through some bullshit/post-Survivor/she on fire/who want to hear my bullshit?/Meanwhile this man kept putting his hands on me/Swear y'all don't know the half of this industry
It sounds like this abusive relationship began when Beyoncé's first solo album came out, in 2003. Rowland details her attempts, almost a decade later, to pretend everything is fine by hiding her face "behind them black shades" and driving around in fancy cars. She repeatedly sings "Get it together/Can I get it together?" as if she's talking to herself, and outlines her "sister" Beyoncé (Kelly and Beyoncé grew up together) becoming aware of this relationship and telling her to get out:
Kind of lucky I was in her shadow/Phone call from my sister; 'What's the matter?'/She said, 'Oh no, baby, you gotta leave'/I'm on the kitchen floor/He took the keys/I was mad at everybody/I mean everybody/yeah her her her her, everybody
Rowland describes the isolation that abuse can have on victims, which seems to have weighed even heavier on her, due to the fact that she's a public figure and her persona is that of someone for whom life is easy. She seems confused about whether to be happy no one knew, or sad:
So here I am in this spin cycle/We coming and we going/Nobody can notice/And I was trapped in his house/Lying to my mama/Thought it could get no worse as we maximize the drama/Started to call them people on him/I was battered/He hit the window like it was me/Until it shattered/He pulled me out and said 'Don't nobody love you but me/Not your mama not your daddy and especially not B'/He turned me against my sister/I missed ya
Flash-forward five years later, circa 2007:
I got my shit down pat/Think I had it good/And they don't know how bad/Fooled everybody/Except myself/Soaking in this hurt/Bathing in the dirt
Rowland's ex-fiancé, retired NFL played Roy Williams has Tweeted, that the song is not about him:
Williams and Rowland were engaged in 2005, but from her mention of "Swear y'all don't know the half of this industry", it seems like whoever was abusing her was someone she knew through music; some are speculating that the song is exaggerating the physical aspects of the abuse to describe the unhealthy relationship Rowland had with Matthew Knowles, Beyoncé's father and her former manager. Others think it explains songs like Destiny's Child's "Girl" off of their final album Destiny Fulfilled which was released in 2004. In the video for that song, Beyoncé and Michelle are seen consoling Kelly about a bad relationship, though the lyrics there indicate more infidelity problems than anything serious.
Update: It's more likely that it's Cudda Love, rapper Nelly's former manager, given a subsequent Tweet from Williams and rampant speculation along those lines. Rowland first met Cudda when she sang "Dilemma" with Nelly back in 2002, which would match the timing of the abuse as she describes it in "Dirty Laundry."
'I’m careful with my heart. I don’t take crap from no one these days, I put my foot down," Rowland told the Daily Mail in 2011. "Being a woman you deserve heaven and earth. So if a man wants to date me, know that I don’t take crap."
The chorus of "Dirty Laundry" is especially heartbreaking: "When you're soaked in tears it never airs out/When you make pain look this good it never wears out," Rowland sings. And finally:
"Love is pain and pain is love."
The Man Behind Kelly Rowland's Dirty Laundry... [The Celeb Overdose]
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty