Sam Smith’s 2017 comeback probably shouldn’t have included wearing an R. Kelly t-shirt

Sam Smith’s 2017 comeback probably shouldn’t have included wearing an R. Kelly t-shirt
Sam Smith at Coachella Music Festival in 2016 Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Sam Smith at Coachella Music Festival in 2016 Kevin Winter/Getty Images
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He may be “Too Good at Goodbyes,” but recent paparazzi shots show singer Sam Smith’s not so great at picking his own T-shirts. In a truly head-scratching move, the singer was photographed at the Saturday Night Live afterparty last Saturday — in October of the year 2017, mind you — in a T-shirt emblazoned with the face and name of R. Kelly. As someone who’s knee-deep in promoting an upcoming album, it’s hard to imagine that Sam Smith’s outfit at a public event was an arbitrary choice — which, knowing what we know about R. Kelly, makes that choice all the more baffling.

Let’s give Sam the benefit of the doubt for a second. Yes, he’s just 25. Yes, he grew up in the U.K. Maybe he’s just unfamiliar with Kelly’s alleged history, beyond “Ignition (Remix)”? Perhaps.

Even a cursory Google search of the name “Robert Sylvester Kelly” would give you more than enough reasons to choose another T-shirt, literally any other blousy top, for your SNL afterparty appearance. Reports of R. Kelly’s alleged abuse reach back as far as 2000, when the Chicago Sun-Times first reported allegations of Kelly having sex with underage girls, to as recently as July 2017, when BuzzFeed reported on family members worried about loved ones trapped in Kelly’s “abusive ‘cult.’” Clearly Twitter users are aware of these, and other reports, and they’re not happy with Smith.

Sadly, it’s not just Sam Smith who’s ignoring the years of reports about R. Kelly. Every time he books another stage, or releases another album, the people who keep giving Kelly chances are silencing the voices of black women who’ve had the courage to come forward. It’s a sad reminder of words that Jamilah Lemieux wrote for Mic in July, “Those who harm black women and girls too often escape accountability, and [their] word is rarely enough.”

Yes, there are bigger issues facing our country, and our world, than the shirt that a white soul singer wore to a fancy party. Yes, we live in confusing times and yes, every day greets us with a series of complicated decisions to make and compromises to navigate. But this one? This was an insanely easy choice to make, and Sam Smith, before you pick out another boxy T-shirt, please do better.

Mic has reached out to Smith’s publicist, and will update with more information.