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Eurovision 2019: Around the contest in 20 lyrics

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Eurovision.tv

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Clockwise from top left: Tamta, Bilal Hassani, Sarah McTernan, Tulia, Hatari

Icelandic punk? Polish folk? Norwegian… joik? It can only be Eurovision, back again to bring another musical smorgasbord into our living rooms.

Forty-one nations are competing in Tel Aviv, though after two semi-finals that will be whittled down to 26 in time for Saturday’s grand final.

This year has not been without controversy, what with Ukraine withdrawing from the competition and questions being raised over Israel’s suitability as host.

Yet that will not stop millions of fans gathering in front of their televisions this weekend for their annual fix of glamour, kitsch and spectacle.

We’ve had a listen to this year’s selected songs and chosen 20 that stand out from the pack.

Australia

“I’ve been aching/Feeling low/You’re so heavy/I have got to let you go”

Kate Miller-HeidkeImage copyright
Jo Duck

Look out Katharine Jenkins: Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke is gunning for your opera- crossover crown.

Written with her husband Keir Nuttall, her trill-tastic song Zero Gravity – inspired in part by her experience of post-natal depression – combines pop and opera to startling effect.

Australia, who will perform 12th on Tuesday’s first semi-final, are allowed to take part in Eurovision because Australian broadcaster SBS shows the contest “Down Under”.

They were first invited to participate in 2015 when the contest turned 60 and finished second the following year.

  • Post-natal depression on Eurovision stage

Belgium

“I came to fight, I came to fight over you/Don’t want your lies, don’t want your lies, I need truth”

EliotImage copyright
Wouter Struyf

Aged 18, Belgium’s Eliot Vassamillet is one of the youngest of this year’s Eurovision hopefuls.

But the teenage Vassamillet has experience on his side in co-songwriter Pierre Dumoulin, whose City Lights track saw Belgium come a creditable fourth two years ago.

Eliot’s song Wake Up is an inspirational pop anthem with a stirring chorus that calls on young people to come together for a better world.

Eliot is the 10th act to perform on Tuesday and should qualify for the final with room to spare.

Cyprus

“We keep it undercover/I know you miss the taste/Heart beats like an 808/You need my love on replay”

TamtaImage copyright
Ioannis Renesis

With no wins from 35 attempts, Cyprus hold the record for being the country with the most Eurovision appearances without a victory.

Replay, sung by 38-year-old Tamta Goduadze, probably won’t alter that, but it’s a catchy number nonetheless that will get people dancing in Tel Aviv and beyond.

Cyprus, whose song will be the first performed in Tuesday’s first semi-final, achieved their best placing last year, finishing second with dance track Fuego.

The lyric refers to the Roland TR-808, a popular drum machine first manufactured in the 1980s.

Czech Republic

“She was my neighbour when we were 13. She moved back in/There’s not much between us now, do you know what I mean?”

Lake MalawiImage copyright
Tomas Gal

The Czech Republic scored their best Eurovision result last year when they finished sixth in Lisbon.

They’ll be hoping to better that this year with an upbeat pop song from Lake Malawi, a trio of fresh-faced lads who look like Trinec’s answer to Years and Years.

Lead singer Albert Cerny was inspired to sing after hearing Coldplay’s The Scientist, which might explain the English accent he adopts during Friend Of A Friend’s spoken-word section.

Lake Malawi, who perform sixth on Tuesday, are a firm fan favourite so should have no trouble progressing to the final.

Estonia

“A storm like this/Can break a man like this/But when it all calms down/We’re still safe and sound”

Victor CroneImage copyright
Stina Kase

SuRie represented the United Kingdom in 2018 with a song called Storm and finished in 24th place.

Twelve months on, Estonia are sending another song called Storm to Eurovision. Will they fare any better?

Singer Victor Crone was actually born in Sweden and tried to represent that nation at Eurovision in 2014.

The 27-year-old will be the 14th act to perform on Tuesday and will need a following wind if he is to progress onto Saturday’s final.

France

“Who are we/When we hurt, when we fight for free/Only God can judge you and me”

Bilal HassaniImage copyright
Fifou

Urban pop meets classic chanson in Roi, the empowering song about self-acceptance France is sending to Eurovision this year.

It is sung by Bilal Hassani, an LGBTQ activist and social media star with a collection of glamorous wigs that all have names.

Bilal, who has wanted to compete at Eurovision since childhood, has endured cyber harassment and homophobic abuse since being selected.

Yet he’s taken the trolling in his stride, calling his participation “the best response to the haters”.

As one of the “big five” countries who largely finance the competition, France get an automatic pass through to Saturday’s grand final.

  • Wig-wearing gay icon seeks Eurovision fame

Germany

“I’m sorry for the drama/I tried to steal your thunder/Turns out I don’t wanna”

S!stersImage copyright
NDR/Hendrik Lüders

Germany’s Eurovision song is Sister, performed by a female duo called S!sters.

Carlotta Truman and Laurita Spinelli aren’t actually siblings though. In fact, they only met in January.

Good thing their song – which suggests women should stop competing and just try to get along – isn’t meant to be taken literally.

It’s been nine years since the Germans – who also have “big five” status – last won Eurovision and they came last in both 2015 and 2016.

But they did okay last year, finishing fourth with Michael Shulte’s You Let Me Walk Alone.

Iceland

“Hate will prevail/And Europe’s heart impale/Burn off its web of lies/Now from that conflagration/Rise in unity”

HatariImage copyright
Íris Dögg Einars

With their spiked masks, bondage gear and platform boots, Icelandic band Hatari will be hard to miss at Eurovision this year.

Some will find their song Hatrio Mun Sigra (Hate will prevail) – an ear-shattering mix of growled lyrics, ghostly wails and pounding techno – no less hard to listen to.

Founded in Reykjavik in 2015, Hatari are a performance art collective on a mission to destroy capitalism.

They are also no fans of Israel and have challenged its PM Benjamin Netanyahu to “a friendly match of glima” (Icelandic trouser wrestling) in central Tel Aviv.

Iceland, whose act will be the 13th on Tuesday, have yet to win Eurovision, though they did come second in 1999 and 2009.

  • Iceland embraces band’s bleak message

Ireland

“Every time I’m with somebody I’m confusing him with you/Anywhere I go reminds me of the things we used to do”

Sarah McTernanImage copyright
RTÉ 2019/Lili Forberg

No nation has a better Eurovision record than Ireland, who won the competition seven times between 1970 and 1996.

But they’ve had mixed fortunes since, with last year’s hopeful – Ryan O’Shaughnessy – becoming only the first act to make it past the semis since 2013.

County Clare native Sarah McTernan will be hoping her retro pop track 22 has what it takes to progress beyond Thursday’s second semi-final.

The 25-year-old says her song – which has nothing to do with Taylor Swift – is “a bit of a palate cleanser” that is “poppy, fun and very radio-friendly”.

Italy

“He’s drinking champagne during Ramadan/On TV they are airing Jackie Chan”

MahmoodImage copyright
Attilio Cusani

Italy – another of the “big five” – looks set for another top five finish this year with Soldi (Money), an appealing blend of R&B, trap and hip-hop from Milan-born singer Mahmood.

The Italian-language song explores the singer’s relationship with his Egyptian father, who left his Sardinian mother when he was young.

Its lyrics reflect Mahmood’s mixed-race heritage and his feelings towards a man who “left home out of the blue” and “only cared for the money”.

“I put something personal in every song I write,” explains Mahmood, who was born Alessandro Mahmoud in 1992. “When I sing a song I’m bringing my story on stage.”

Malta

“Give me water I’m a swimmer/Give me fire I’m a fighter/Give me love I’m a lover/Make me cry I’ll be a river”

MichelaImage copyright
Jonathan Brincat

Malta are another country yet to land a Eurovision win, though they did finish second in 2002 and 2005.

Another Top 10 finish seems likely with Chameleon, a jazz-infused pop number with shades of Caro Emerald and Rihanna.

Michela Pace, 18, won the right to perform the song at Eurovision after triumphing in Malta’s first edition of The X Factor.

The singer, who goes by the mononymic Michela, will be the 11th act in Thursday’s second semi-final. But the parrot may have other plans.

Netherlands

“Small town boy in a big arcade/I got addicted to a losing game”

Duncan LaurenceImage copyright
Paul Bellaart

Ask the bookies who they think will win this year and they will probably say Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands.

His song, Arcade, is a soaring ballad about a failed romance that has already touched the hearts of many Eurovision fans.

Born Duncan de Moor in 1994, Laurence was a semi-finalist on The Voice of Holland in 2014.

Arcade will be the 16th song in Thursday’s semi-final, where its qualification will be a mere formality.

Norway

“Have you seen my spirit/Lost in the night/The violent nightshade/They took away my light”

KEiiNOImage copyright
NRK

If you’ve yet to experience joik, a traditional song form performed by the Sami people of northern Scandinavia, your ears are in for a treat.

Similar to chants used by some Native American tribes, it’s a sonorous, guttural yowl that makes Norwegian entry Spirit In The Sky one of the more memorable numbers in this year’s competition.

Norwegian trio KEiiNO was formed last year and comprises of Tom Hugo, Alexandra Rotan and Sami rapper Fred Buljo.

According to Hugo, their song – the 15th on Thursday’s semi-final – is “a celebration of historic battles that have been won and are still going on”.

Poland

“Sitting on an iceberg/Waiting for the sun/Hoping to be rescued/Cold and alone”

TuliaImage copyright
Grzegorz Gołębiowski

Poland are another country yet to record a win at Eurovision, coming closest in 1994 with a second place finish.

Their hopes this year rest on four women collectively known as Tulia, whose Fire Of Love song uses an Eastern European style of singing called white voice.

It’s a full-throated bellow sometimes known as “screaming sing” that may leave some eardrums begging for mercy.

If you saw Pawel Pawlikowski’s Oscar-nominated film Cold War, meanwhile, you’ll recognise the ladies’ traditional costumes and headdresses.

Poland, whose most memorable Eurovision moment remains 2014’s suggestive butter churning routine, will be the fourth act to perform during Tuesday’s semi-final.

Portugal

“I broke my cell phone/When I tried to call heaven”

Conan OsirisImage copyright
Pedro Pina/RTP

Fado, techno and Middle Eastern rhythms make an unusual combination in Portugal’s entry Telemoveis.

It’s sung by Conan Osiris (real name Tiago Miranda), a self-taught dancer, composer and producer who once worked in a famous Lisbon sex shop.

According to one pundit, his “courageous and inventive number… leaves the listener awash in multitonalities.”

Telemoveis (which means mobile phones) will be the 15th song to be staged during Tuesday’s semi-final.

Russia

“Tears won’t fall/While pride stands tall/But tears aren’t quiet things/They burn and scar and sting”

Sergey LazarevImage copyright
Daniil Velichko

Russia recruiting homegrown superstar Sergey Lazarev to perform its entry this year is a clear sign of intent from a country that considers Eurovision the Olympic Games of music.

Lazarev came third in 2016 and is expected to do even better with Scream, a dramatic ballad with an anthemic chorus.

Lazarev is a former gymnast whose other interests include a canine treats business called Poodle-Strudel.

The 35-year-old Moscovite will be the 13th act to perform in Thursday’s semi-final.

  • Russia tipped for Eurovision success

Spain

“They buy you because you are for sale/You are for sale because you are smug”

MikiImage copyright
José Irún

Spain – another “big five” nation – recorded back-to-back Eurovision victories in the late 1960s but have fallen off the pace since.

They haven’t had a top five finish since 1995 and came dead last two years ago with a woeful five points.

Lively Spanish-language track La Venda (The Blindfold) should fare better much than that with its catchy chorus, blaring horns and infectious Latin rhythms.

Singer Miki, short for Miguel Nunez Pozo, says the message of the song is to “start loving yourself and stop living conventionally”.

Sweden

“I could be the sun that lights your dark/Maybe I would lit your world with just one spark”

John LundvikImage copyright
Janne Danielsson/SVT

Sweden do not mess about when it comes to Eurovision. They’ve won it six times in all and have only failed to qualify once.

Too Late For Love, their contribution this year, is a typically polished slice of power pop with a rousing gospel accompaniment.

Singer John Lundvik was born in London and adopted by Swedish ex-pats when he was a baby. After moving to Sweden he became a champion sprinter before turning his talents to performing.

He is one of the three writers credited on Too Late for Love, none of whom seem to know how to use the past participle of light correctly.

Switzerland

“I noticed her when she arrived/Kind of lady that mama like/But mama she ain’t here tonight/Gettin’ rowdy rowdy”

Luca HanniImage copyright
SRF/Lukas Maeder

If you’ve ever wondered what a Swiss version of Justin Timberlake might look like, look no further than Luca Hanni.

As adept at hoofing as he is at singing, this Chihuahua-owning 24-year-old will have Tel Aviv on its feet with his hip-swaying toe-tapper She Got Me.

Born in Bern, Hanni won the German version of Pop Idol in 2012 and was victorious again five years later in Germany’s version of Dance Dance Dance.

He’s scheduled to perform fourth on Thursday and should waltz into Saturday’s final without breaking a sweat.

United Kingdom

“Cause I can feel the universe/When I’m feeling you breathe/It’s bigger than us”

Michael RiceImage copyright
PA

Michael Rice becomes the latest British hopeful to try their luck at Eurovision, having been chosen by viewers to represent the UK on Eurovision: You Decide.

The 21-year-old from Hartlepool appeared on The X Factor in 2014 and last year won All Together Now on BBC One.

Bigger Than Us – whose writers include Sweden’s hopeful John Lundvik and Laurell Barker, a co-writer of both the German and Swiss contenders – is a big ballad with a big key change and big, stirring harmonies.

Time will tell if it’s big enough to earn the UK – the final fifth of the “big five” – its first Eurovision victory since 1997.

  • Talent show winner chosen for Eurovision

The first Eurovision semi-final will be broadcast live on BBC Four on 14 May from 20:00 BST.

The second semi-final will be shown on BBC Four on 16 May from 20:00 BST, while the grand final will air on BBC One on 18 May from 20:00 BST.

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Vienna opera house stages first opera by woman

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Kate Lindsey as OrlandoImage copyright
Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn

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Kate Lindsey will play the title role of Orlando

For the first time in its 150-year history, the Vienna State Opera is staging an opera by a woman.

Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth has written a new opera based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando which deals with themes of gender fluidity and duality.

The title role is played by the singer Kate Lindsey.

Orlando lives for centuries, beginning as a man in Elizabethan England and then changing into a woman.

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Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn

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The story by Virginia Woolf has been updated for the 21st Century

Olga Neuwirth says androgyny and the rejection of gender stereotypes have inspired her ever since she first read Woolf’s novel as a teenager.

“Not only is it a journey through centuries, but it is a journey of constant questioning of imposed norms by society, and society is made by man,” she told the BBC.

Olga Neuwirth

Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn

Orlando, for all of us, should be a symbol of freedom, humanity and freedom of opinion, but in a very playful and ironic way – which I like so much

“Each human being is allowed to choose what they feel is inside them,” she said. “There is no binary role model anymore.”

Conductor Matthias Pintscher says the ‘in-betweenness” of the story of Orlando is reflected in the music.

“She is mixing it all up,” he said. “We have a traditional orchestra in the pit. On top of that we have three keyboards, a jazz band and a lot of pre-recorded samples that interestingly, beautifully blend into the texture of the live instruments.”

Olga Neuwirth says “it feels a little bit strange” to be the first female composer to have a work staged at the Vienna State Opera.

The opera house cancelled her previous attempt to put on an piece with a libretto by the Nobel Prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek.

Image copyright
Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn

Image caption

The opera has special significance for Justin Vivian Bond, who plays Orlando’s child

“One hundred and fifty years is a long time. But I’ve always said it’s never too late. So it’s good that they finally have thought about it. And at least if you’re the first, there has to be a second and a third and so on. So it’s always good to have a starting point.”

The costumes are by another woman, designer Rei Kawakubo, of Commes des Garçons.

The story has been brought up into the 21st Century.

For transgender and trans-genre artist Justin Vivian Bond, who plays the role of Orlando’s child, this opera has a personal significance.

“Conceptually, I am the legacy of what the novel Orlando began to express about gender and transgression and about the difference between what it’s actually like to be a man or a woman, if indeed there is that much of a difference,” said Bond.

“And since I’m a non-binary person who’s trans-feminine, I guess you could say I am happily stepping into a moment and I’m the sort of representation of where we’ve come.”

You may also be interested in:

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Media captionLucia Lucas tells the BBC what it’s like to be a transgender opera singer but still have to play male roles
  • Child prodigy’s opera thrills Vienna
  • Royal Opera House fires tenor after ‘brawl’



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Panipat: The Bollywood battle over a 400-year-old war

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The film posterImage copyright
Panipat film

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Sanjay Dutt (R) plays Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Abdali

The argument over a 400-year-old war began in a modern way: with a tweet.

“Death strikes where his shadow falls,” wrote Sanjay Dutt, the veteran Bollywood actor who plays the Afghan leader, Ahmad Shah Abdali, in the film Panipat, which opened in cinemas on Friday.

It was supposed to stir up excitement for the film, which was released on Friday. Instead, it came close to instigating an international incident, angering an entire country of once-loyal Bollywood fans.

But what exactly has got Afghans so riled up?

Panipat tells the story of a 17th Century battle between an Indian empire and an Afghan army, led by Abdali, with the trailer leaving viewers in no doubt that this will be a high-octane ride from start to finish.

But it was certain to cause some controversy: after all, to Afghans Abdali is their founding father and hero, but to Indians he’s an invader who killed thousands of Maratha warriors in the historic battle of Panipat, north of Delhi.

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AFP

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Arjun Kapoor (L) and Kriti Sanon also appear in the film

Concerns were initially raised when the film was first announced. In 2017 the Afghan consulate in Mumbai reached out directly to the Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

“Ahmad Shah Abdali holds great regard in the hearts and minds of Afghan people,” said Naseem Sharifi, Afghanistan’s consul general in the city. “When the film was being made we requested to watch it without exposing the plot. Despite our constant efforts, we didn’t get any response from the filmmakers.”

But then came Sanjay Dutt’s tweet, complete with a picture of his character, the man Afghans refer to as Ahmad Shah Baba (father). The uproar was immediate.

“He’s vicious. He wears kohl. Abdali wasn’t like that. From the way he dresses to the way he speaks; it’s not even Afghan, he’s portrayed as an Arab,” Elaha Walizadeh, an Afghan blogger, told the BBC.

For generations, Afghans have grown up with Bollywood films such as Khuda Gawah, starring Amitabh Bachchan as a brave and patriotic Afghan protagonist. They were a source of joy and hope for many refugees during the dark Taliban era. They played the songs at their weddings, danced to the tunes, memorised famous dialogue and even learned Hindi from it.

But then came films such as the 2018 epic Padmaavat, which saw superstar Ranveer Singh playing Alauddin Khilji, a Turko-Afghan ruler who invaded and ruled Delhi in the 12th Century. Though the film garnered positive reviews, the portrayal of Khaliji as a cruel and vicious ruler offended many Afghans – although they were far from the only group to take issue.

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Media captionDeepika Padukone received death threats for her role in Bollywood epic Padmaavat

Similarly Kesari, a 2019 period drama about an epic battle between 21 Sikh soldiers from the British Indian Army and more than 10,000 Afghans, was criticised for stereotyping and vilifying Afghans as invaders who forcibly took land.

Platforms like Twitter and Facebook mean those offended can easily find others who share their disillusionment.

“People are seeing the issue of misrepresentation because of social media. More young Afghans are noticing a trend and having conversations about it,” Walizadeh said.

“Whereas before they were elated at the slightest mention of Afghans in Hindi movies, they now watch it with scrutiny. Though misrepresentation is a global problem, given Afghans’ relationship with Bollywood they expect better.”

More on Bollywood

Some film critics say however that the changing portrayal of Afghan characters could be down to more than just rising awareness on the part of Afghan filmgoers.

Instead they link the rising number of films with negative Muslim characters as an attempt by Bollywood executives to align the industry with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – a Hindu nationalist party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We have a Hindu majority party which is quite conscious of exploiting the soft power of Bollywood,” said Ankur Pathak, entertainment editor of Huffington Post India.

“Whether that is the prime minister clicking selfies with the top stars, organising meet-and-greet events or the ruling party encouraging Bollywood to show films about nation-building, there’s an invisible incentive to make films to depict India in a positive light – and by India that means it’s Modi’s idea of India or the BJP’s idea of India, which is pro-Hindu.”

It is a dangerous path, Pathak adds.

“Misrepresentation of any community does immense damage. Given the current climate it’s something we need to steer clear from,” he said.

Film director Ashutosh Gowariker has dismissed the claims.

He told online channel Film Companion: “This film is not about a Hindu-Muslim battle. It’s about stopping an invader. It’s about protecting your borders, your land, that’s the patriotic theme of the film. In the wake of that we have to show that Abdali did invade but we have kept the dignity of the character.”

But Mr Sharifi, the Afghan consul-general, remains worried about the possible fallout from Panipat – despite assurances from Sanjay Dutt that he would not have taken the role if the portrayal was negative.

The consul-general, who also acts as an advisor to the Afghan president, says he wants a panel of experts from both countries to review the film before its release.

The BBC asked Sanjay Dutt for a response to the criticism but did not receive a response.

For some of Bollywood’s most loyal Afghan fans, the film is likely to disappoint.

“Historically Indian cinema has been instrumental in strengthening Indo-Afghan ties,” Dr Shaida Abdali, the former Afghan ambassador to India, tweeted.

“I very much hope that the film ‘Panipat’ has kept that fact in mind while dealing with this important episode of our shared history!”



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R. Kelly faces bribery charge over 1994 marriage to Aaliyah

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R. Kelly arrives for a hearing on sexual abuse charges at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in June 2019Image copyright
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The singer has faced allegations of underage abuse for two decades

R. Kelly has been charged with bribing a government official in order to get a fraudulent identification document to marry an under-age girl in 1994.

The girl, named only as Jane Doe in the documents, has widely been identified by US media as singer Aaliyah.

They got married when she was 15 and R. Kelly was 27. The certificate, leaked at the time, listed her age as 18.

R. Kelly is facing several sexual abuse charges with trials in Chicago and New York next year. He denies wrongdoing.

The latest criminal indictment was filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, and expands on charges filed against him in July.

  • R. Kelly denied bail as second trial date set

They say he and his entourage headed up a racketeering operation, across two decades, which recruited women and under-age girls for illegal sexual activity.

What is the new charge?

R. Kelly, real name Robert Kelly, is accused of paying a bribe to an unnamed Illinois government employee to obtain a fake ID.

That identification was then used to obtain a marriage licence which listed her age as 18, the New York Times reports.

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Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001

Court documents reportedly say the bribe was paid on 30 August 1994 – just one day before the marriage licence to Aaliyah, first reported by Vibe magazine.

Their marriage was annulled months later because the teenager, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, was under age.

The singer died in a plane crash in 2001. Her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, was produced and written by R. Kelly.

Steven Greenberg, R. Kelly’s lawyer, told ABC News earlier this year that his client had “no idea” Aaliyah was 15 when they married.

Responding to the New York Times on Thursday, Mr Greenberg said the new charge “does not appear to materially alter the landscape”.

More on the R Kelly allegations

  • The history of allegations against him

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Media captionLanita Carter explains why she decided to speak out publicly against R Kelly

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