The Curious Case Of Chris Brown
As anyone who follows the music industry knows, the Grammy Awards were handed out earlier this month. The big winner, as expected, was Adele, who took home half a dozen pieces of old-timey-record-player-shaped hardware and received a standing ovation for her performance of “Rolling In The Deep.” The Foo Fighters were pretty big winners too, getting two performance spots and basically sweeping the entire rock category – they even took home the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance award for “White Limo” over the likes of Megadeth, Mastodon, and Dream Theater. Other highlights of the show included performances from Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and the reunited surviving Beach Boys, along with tributes to Glen Campbell and Whitney Houston.
You know who else was a big winner this year? Chris Brown. He may have only received one Grammy – Best R&B Album for F.A.M.E. – but he also got to perform twice and received a standing ovation at an award show that unofficially blacklisted him a mere three years ago in the wake of that incident. The fact that he was even allowed to appear there at all counts as a pretty huge victory for “Breezy,” since that incident briefly rendered him a pop pariah and possibly this generation’s answer to Ike Turner for all the wrong reasons. You think it’s any coincidence that Rihanna showed up to the Grammys looking like Tina Turner? Maybe it is, but she couldn’t have looked any more like Tina if she was auditioning for a remake of What’s Love Got To Do With It.
Just so we’re all clear, let me remind you of what I mean when I refer to that incident.
CHRIS BROWN TURNED THIS:
By the way, according to police reports (in which Rihanna is referred to by her birth name, Robyn F.) he also bit her, threatened to kill her, and put her in a head lock until she started losing consciousness. Oh, Breezy. You’re such a charmer. I’d let you date my sister any day of the week.
See, I was raised to not do things like that to people. And if I did, I imagine it would be far more difficult for me to earn forgiveness from the rest of the world than Mr. Breezy. I would have actually spent some time in jail, for starters. To paraphrase Chris Rock, somehow I doubt Team Breezy would stand so firmly behind their boy if he was Chris Brown the bus-driving girl puncher. And if I were to go around acting like an unapologetic douchebag after the fact, nobody would be giving me a pat on the back saying, “You go, C-Frat! Tell those haters to go screw themselves!”
Why do I say Chris Brown is an unapologetic douchebag? Well, maybe because in the years following that incident, he went on CNN to make his obligatory public pseudo-apology and has tried to act like it wasn’t really that big a deal ever since. I know getting all high and mighty about this seems pretty hypocritical coming from an Eagles fan – after all, our starting quarterback in Philly is the guy who spent two years in prison for running an illegal dogfighting ring out of his house. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trust Mike Vick to watch my dog while I leave the room for a short bathroom break. But at least he seems like he’s trying to clean up his act, even if it’s only for the sake of good PR.
Chris Brown just doesn’t seem to care. Even in his “apology” interview on Larry King Live, he talked about it as if it was something someone else had done. He told Larry King he didn’t even remember attacking Rihanna. And he said things like “I can’t believe that happened” as opposed to “I can’t believe I did that.” Everyone unaffiliated with Team Breezy seemed to agree that he didn’t look like a person who deeply regretted what he’d done, but rather someone who wouldn’t take responsibility for it and didn’t understand why everyone was making such a fuss.
And somehow his personal and professional conduct has managed to go even further downhill ever since that interview. To this day he and his fans keep talking about that incident like it was a mistake. In the words of the late Whitney Houston, “Hell to the no.” A mistake is when you leave your phone at home when you’re expecting an important call. Punching your girlfriend in the face is not a mistake; it is a conscious decision to physically attack another human being.
He threw a violent hissy fit at Good Morning America after they had the gall to ask him questions about that incident on the air. He screamed his head off, ripped his shirt off, smashed his dressing room window with a chair, confronted a producer, blew off a performance, and frightened the entire hair and makeup staff to the point where they called security. Yet who had to apologize afterward? Good Morning America, of course. And they even said he was welcome to return!
His post-incident album Graffiti was lambasted by the press for having songs that dealt with that incident by trying to paint him as a sympathetic figure. “Famous Girl” is a self-contradictory ode to a certain ex-flame from Barbados that tries to paint her as a heartbreaking cheater even though he says he’s guilty of the same things – plus, he’s still the bigger asshole because he’s the one who put his girlfriend in the hospital.
“Fallin’ Down” is about how he feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and this upsets him even though he deserves to feel bad because he put his girlfriend in the hospital.
And then you have “Lucky Me” and “Graffiti” (the latter from the album’s deluxe edition), where he rips into the media for trying to make him look bad, even though he brought the heat on himself by putting his girlfriend in the hospital.
By the time “Deuces” came out he’d fully embraced his inner douchebag. “Deuces” is a bitter breakup song about blaming his ex for “always hoping for the worst,” how she’ll “regret the day when [he] find[s] another girl” who will “keep it drama free.” (That song even features a verse where Kevin McCall name-checks Ike Turner, of all people, and in the context of Tina hitting him.) And the titular acronym of the album that just won him a Grammy stands for – I kid you not – Forgiving All My Enemies. How nice of you, Chris! I’m so glad you’ve made peace with all your enemies, even though they are enemies that you only have BECAUSE YOU PUNCHED YOUR GIRLFRIEND IN THE FACE AND ALMOST CHOKED HER TO DEATH!
But you know what really confuses me the most about all this? Chris Brown is arguably even more popular now than he was before that incident. How often can you say that about a celebrity? That they became even more popular after committing a violent crime? I mean, there were actually girls watching the Grammys this month who tweeted things like, “Chris Brown can beat me any time!” Parents of America, YOU HAVE FAILED YOUR DAUGHTERS.
And now in the weeks following the Grammys, Chris Brown has celebrated his win by tweeting about how the haters can “FUCK OFF,” continuing his long-running habit of saying awful things on Twitter and promptly deleting them. According to Us Weekly (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s a tabloid, but I still thought this was worth a mention), he tried to pick up a girl in a bar by promising he wouldn’t beat her. And this week, according to CBS News in Miami (hey look, a more reputable source!), he’s in trouble with the law again because he allegedly got mad at a fan for taking his picture and snatched her iPhone and drove off with it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, this guy is a Grade-A jerkass with a black belt in tae kwon douche and a Ph. D in prickology. Yet the music industry is bending over backwards to make him feel welcome, forgiven, and vindicated. It’s gotten to the point where even Rihanna herself collaborated with him on a couple remixes this month, sparking rumors of the pair getting back together and causing many to question whether she suffers from battered spouse syndrome. I’m no fan of Rihanna and yet I’m still disappointed that she would stoop this low to drum up publicity for new music when everything she touches turns to Hot 100 gold anyway.
I just don’t get it. And I probably never will. Look, there’s nothing wrong with forgiveness and redemption and whatnot, and if that’s how you feel about all this… fine, whatever. That’s your prerogative. I’m sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to forgive someone who committed a violent crime and acts like he’s entitled to forgiveness rather than taking steps to earn it.
But hey, maybe there could be a bright side to all of this. Go out and ask people what they know about Ike Turner. Chances are they’ll remember him for abusing Tina rather than any of his musical accomplishments — and his body of work is far more accomplished and influential than Breezy’s. If there’s any justice in the world, that is the fate that awaits Chris Brown. I hope he’s ready for it.