Producer: R. Kelly
Album: R./Space Jam: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture
Label: Atlantic/Jive

Like it or not, R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” works because of R. Kelly. There’s not another singer alive with the same combination of ability, earnest conviction, and personal demons—demons that Kelly believes he needs the listener’s support to fight. (This is something truly remarkable and disquieting about Kelly’s music, this boundless desire and open pleading for help and uplift.) On “I Believe I Can Fly,” the most successful single of his long career, Kelly calls on strings and a choir and every bit of strength available in his lungs and vocal chords to rise above the broad struggle described in the lyrics. There’s something about a breakdown and a loud silence, an awful song that replaces the richness promised by a successful life. It’s generic enough for anyone to step into the skin of “I Believe I Can Fly” and find something to root for. —Ross Scarano