When no one wants to hear the truth, the act of saying it out loud can be empowering. In the case of Kelly Rowland, former Destiny’s Child singer and current R and B crooner, the truth is that she had, and stayed in, an abusive relationship.
Rowland’s soulful lyrics show that for every explosive and colorful relationship lived in the public eye (*cough* Chris Brown and Rihanna *cough*), there may be a private and hidden one that is just as bad. In her new song, “Dirty Laundry,” Rowland sings “when you’re soaked in tears for years it never airs out, when you make pain look this good it never wears out.”
The song also highlights her on again/off again rivalry/sisterhood with Beyonce. Considered the "successful" member of Destiny’s Child, Beyonce made it big while Rowland just sort of faded away. And yet, there remained a bond that Rowland wishes she could have drawn on.
Saying “he turned me against my sister,” she shows one of the classic signs of abuse — the abuser seeks to isolate his victim, make her “a bird in a cage,” leaving her “on the kitchen floor, he took the keys.”
But people don’t want to hear this stuff, especially not from people who haven’t made it big, which is why the title “Dirty Laundry” is so appropriate. It’s what’s hidden, what you keep from others, so when he puts his hands on you and batters you and you’ve got to “fix my makeup, get it together,” so no one notices. You feel ashamed.
It’s another way to isolate someone, who by no fault of her own, becomes part of a very unhealthy situation. Shame should be present, all right, but it should be on the part of the abuser, not the abused. Unfortunately, often the abused believes another of Rowland’s lyrics, “love is pain and pain is love.”
Once you begin identifying the two, they become very hard to separate. It took strength and courage for Rowland to break out of the cycle of violence and place the blame squarely at the feet of her abuser. If for no other reason than that, the song is beautiful and deserves a listen.