“The World’s Greatest” by R. Kelly

“The World’s Greatest” is perhaps one of the most creative yet direct self-help songs to ever grace the music industry. And what it encourages the listener to do, with the vocalist serving as an example, is basically to believe they are in fact “the… greatest” at whatever, let’s say professional endeavor one may find him or herself in.

But this isn’t simply an exercise in gassin’ yourself up. Having genuine belief and faith are also part of the presented equation. So is practicing love so that, when you do reach the pinnacle of success, others will have a worthy role model to look up to.

And overall, this piece can be said to be an admonishment for adherents to strive for excellence. But just to give you a better example of the type of personality upon which it is based, this song is derived from a movie based on the life of Muhammad Ali. 

Ali was a highly-successful and very-influential sports’ figure who, as some readers can undoubtedly attest to, also possessed supreme confidence. That would be why for instance we have R. Kelly boasting, if you will, in the track’s music video. So the implication would be that possessing that type of bravado not only contributed to Ali’s admirable accomplishments but are also likewise applicable in other fields.

R. Kelly's "The World's Greatest" Lyrics

Facts about “The World’s Greatest”

With the release of this track, R. Kelly proved that the type of inspirational effectiveness he displayed in “I Believe I Can Fly” (1996) wasn’t a fluke.  

“The World’s Greatest” topped the UK Indie Chart as well as the UK R&B Chart. It also appeared on music lists in over a dozen other countries. In doing so, it broke the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. 

All things considered, this song was perhaps mostly appreciated in the Netherlands, where it placed within the top 10 of the Dutch Top 40’s year-end ranking for 2002. And commercially, it was well received in the UK and Sweden, going gold in both nations.

As with “I Believe I Can Fly” (and Space Jam), this song was also derived from a movie, that being Will Smith’s Ali (2001). As such it was originally featured as part of the playlist of Ali: Original Soundtrack. But fans of the tune can also find it on the Loveland (Bonus Disc) version of Kels’ own 2003 album, Chocolate Factory.

The track has a release date of 18 February 2003. The labels behind its production and release are Interscope Records and Jive Records.

R. Kelly wrote and produced “The World’s Greatest”. And instrumentally, he is buttressed by The Motown Romance Orchestra and violinist Hart Hollman.  Also, vocally the song utilizes a choir.

The World's Greatest

Music Video

Bille Woodruff directed the cinematic music video to this piece, which was inspired by Ali, a film based on the life of professional athlete / civil rights’ icon Muhammad Ali (1942-2016). 

Accordingly, the said clip features Kelly taking on the role of a championship boxer himself. And it is also pretty obvious, with this song coming out not long after 9/11, that certain images contained therein are meant to honor the heroes of that event, i.e. emergency-response personnel.

As of October 2021, Kelly’s official channels have been deleted from YouTube. The removal of the channels were motivated by Kelly’s sex trafficking conviction in September of 2021. Owing to this, the official music video of “The World’s Greatest” can no longer be viewed on YouTube.

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