Trying to talk about Chris Brown and Rihanna…

…but without talking about them.
I’m not sure the last time there was a story that seemed to fascinate the world that, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t felt the slightest inclination to pay attention to. Perhaps it’s because I don’t give much thought to the careers of either of them, so this is kinda of like if I found out that the best male and female foosball players had a dysfunctional relationship. That’s not to dismiss what has happened. That’s simply to say this isn’t in my sphere right now.
Either way, I don’t want to talk about it because…well, that whole situation is too strange for most of us to begin to speculate upon. We know what’s in the police report, but I’m inclined to wait and see what else comes up and how it’s handled. That said — there ain’t much of an explanation for how that small woman could ever need to be beaten like that. There is no plausible defense.
But check this post Jozen Cummings did a little while ago. He compares finding out that Chris Brown may be a savage to reading Miles Davis’ autobiography, finding out that one of his musical heroes was, unequivocally, a reprehensible, degenerate bastard. Coincidentally, Miles was cold as he wanted to be with the trumpet.
I hear lots of people talking about boycotting Chris Brown. Stations have taken his songs off their playlists. Doublemint gave him the bad habit treatment. Even if she takes him back, I don’t see him making money off music any time soon. He’ll have to do a total reinvention, and it’ll have to be convincing as all get out. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s that much convincing in the world. He’s probably done.
Didn’t have to be this way, though. If he’d made any music with anything approaching depth and substance, he’d actually have a chance to recover.
It’s amazing how forgiving we can be of artists, how fascinated we are by the fruits of tortured genius, how we’re willing to trade brilliance, so long as it can be shared with the world, for misery, so long as the misery is shared by small numbers of people that we don’t know.
The list of dangerous, violent artists — particularly in music — is too long for me to even consider listing examples. I just know that, right now, I’m listening to music by a man that damn near beat his wife to death way back. He’s one of my favorites. Finding out that he beat his wife didn’t make me stop listening to him. It made me understand his music, the stories about suicidal thoughts brought on by self-pity after doing stuff that was nobody’s fault but his own. It seems like just about all his albums have a song about begging his way back that wasn’t just pop songwriting. This wasn’t Otis Redding, who could write about coming back home about 15 different ways. This cat always sounded a half step away from death, offering details that were too stark and unsettling to be entirely fictional.
And after this song is over, I might run it back. I doubt I’d be this forgiving of one of the athletes I cover. But I’m talking an artist, right?
I’m not the only one that does this.
Chris Brown is a pop star, and not an artistic one, far as I can tell. He tried to sell himself to everyone, and he now appears to be a tad phony. People can’t believe he’d do such a thing. The world’s gonna flip up on him completely.
Not because he beat a woman, of course. Nope. It’s because he’s been shown to be a fraud. Singing sweet, sweet love songs and being the good guy stop you from being able to beat a woman bloody and still have a career. Those are the rules.
Make some deeply compelling stuff. Explore the depths of your emotions in your music. Then, people would forgive you. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just pointing this out.
Many believe that for genius to thrive, it needs to be coddled. It needs to be allowed to, on occasion, trample standards of common decency because it’s hard to push boundaries and expand thought while coloring between the lines. I’m willing to hypothesize that this has a lot to do with why people pooh-pooh drug users so often, but listen to and love so much music recorded by fiends. We can live with it if we like what it produces for us.
It’s selfish, but it’s what we do. I’m not sure that requires apology. I shamelessly admit that I’ve learned much of what I know about how other people see the world through music. Saw a lot of what I wanted to be, more of what I didn’t want to be, and how important it was to be who the hell I was.
Do I get all of that without cats Bill Withers (OK, that’s who I’m listening to, even though I said I wouldn’t single anyone out)? Not quite.
Let’s spare the righteous indignation toward Chris Brown, and the judgment of whatever relationship he and Rihanna still have. At least for now.
(Aside — I’ve never once met a woman that’s said, if she were beaten, that she would try to talk it out. Not one. So, given that, shouldn’t people stop and consider that, since so many women go back to men that beat them, the situation is more complex than you can fathom? I don’t get it. I won’t pretend that I do. I don’t get it from either side. I just know how glad I am that whatever is in the two of them isn’t in me. Beyond that, I wish them both the best, whatever the best happens to be.)
If someone else were doing the beating — and, I wonder, if someone less attractive had taken that disturbing photograph — is the response the same? Is the outrage so loud from so many corners? Are the responses requested from so many celebrities? It’s unlikely.
Other people could land on their feet after something like this. Chris Brown can’t. But since that fact isn’t exactly grounded in some morality, a lot of folks need to chill out.
There are certainly plenty of people that see this as a time to bring attention to violence against women. A felony conviction would be a big deal, especially considering hitting someone is typically a misdemeanor (in one state I’ve lived in, I’m pretty sure the crime “domestic battery” is clearly a misdemeanor).
Chris Brown gets what he gets. And with all this wrong, a lot of us need to get right. Do so however you see fit.
EDIT — I just read the police report for the first time. If half of this is true, I’m not sure how talented he would have to be to get away with this. My goodness.

18 thoughts on “Trying to talk about Chris Brown and Rihanna…”

  1. Another thought provoking post.
    Excellent point on the lack of depth in Brown’s artistry. However, I wonder if you underestimate the loyalty in the Black community.
    Further, while you’re right there has been a degree of moralizing spectating and speculating going on, I do think it’s always a good thing to have discussion about violence against women. Often the silence can be oppressive and adds to the victims’ isolation and shame.
    So even if the final story shows that Rihanna matched Chris blow for blow, if there can be a discussion about what healthy relationships should be like, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sadly, Chris Brown lost control and will likely lose his livelihood (the endorsements at least). This situation is a teaching moment for keeping your cool and picking company that brings out the best in you.

  2. black folks don’t buy enough records for “the community” to keep his career going. white folks will have to forgive him, which be hard when you act like a real live animal.

  3. Toni Morrison in Song of Solomon, called it “graveyard love”. I don’t want no parts of that ever. I’m not sure how either one of them rebounds from this. America is big on victims acting like victims. On another note, I love Miles, and have been pretty much obsessed with him since childhood. I’ve never been able to reconcile the truth of the man, with my vision of the man, and don’t even try to anymore.

  4. Glad you went on ahead and named Good ‘ol Bill, cuz I sure was gonna. I have you to thank for my love of his music (I miss those days hanging at your folk’s house eating Turtles and listening to your music…). I just found out this year about the details of what he did to his wife. Still so conflicted now when I hear his music, but I can’t say knowing made me like the songs any less, because they truly do move me.
    I will say that after knowing a man capable of this stuff (no one I’ve dated so don’t start asking those questions), you are spot on with saying it is more complex than people who haven’t experienced it can understand.

  5. Oddly enough, I’d say your post applies to Rihanna, too.
    If she gets back with Chris Brown, I’m thinking it will adversely affect her career, too. Her music is equally shallow, but a lot of the messages are about young girls standing up for themselves and being empowered. Her credibility would be shot because that’s all she sings about.
    Now Mary J. Blige, on the other hand, was forgiven easily for enduring a violent relationship with dude from Jodeci. Why? I think it’s because through her music, you understand that Mary was tortured, flawed, and prone to being with no-good men. Same goes for Aretha, who forever sang about a brother treating her like shit.
    Anyway, great point. Totally on point.

  6. Glad you went on ahead and named Good ‘ol Bill, cuz I sure was gonna. I have you to thank for my love of his music (I miss those days hanging at your folk’s house eating Turtles and listening to your music…). I just found out this year about the details of what he did to his wife. Still so conflicted now when I hear his music, but I can’t say knowing made me like the songs any less, because they truly do move me.
    I will say that after knowing a man capable of this stuff (no one I’ve dated so don’t start asking those questions), you are spot on with saying it is more complex than people who haven’t experienced it can understand.
    Oops, should have said great post! Waiting on your next post!

  7. Fred Batiste, A Weapon of Mass Destruction

    Fugga Chris Brown, and I was saying that when he first came out.
    I like how some radio shows are getting so damned righteous all of a sudden with this Chris Brown/Rihanna thing…but steadily played Robert Sylvester Kelly’s music when he was on tape urinating on another human being.
    I’m not condoning either act, but fluids being expelled on a person (spitting on, pissing on, etc.) is beyond disrespectful.
    But it’s those lil’ pretty boy, ooh baby singers that be beating their women. Chris Brown’s no different, according to the poleece report

  8. Didn’t Brown co-write Disturbia? There are some lyrics about feeling like a monster and being taken over by dark emotions. If anything, this beating validates his art as authentic.
    Additionally, in the video for Run It!, he acts menacing towards the girl he is dancing with, and with his singing, he is basically yelling at her to dance with him, whether or not she has a bf.
    We could have seen this coming, but he looks so nice!

  9. The details behind what happened may be complex, but they also might not be. Either way, by the time there’s a police report, all of that is just about worthless. If he beat her up, send him to jail and just keep your fingers crossed that someone returns the favor.

  10. I think we’re all forgetting the short memory of the American public. I don’t know if it’s a fair correlation, but when is the last time you looked at Kobe Bryant and thought, “he raped a white woman six years ago”. Fast forward and he along with Bron are the faces of the NBA. Plus, I think we can all agree that the image he’s been trying to portray as a family man since his arrest is at best manufactured and at worst the phoniest shit you’ll see on a semi-regular basis.
    Chris is gonna have to lay low for a while, but I bet he’ll remake Billy Jean, Shop Around, or some shit in the summer of 2011 and again America will forget all about it. Let’s not forget these white folks are loving Rihanna, but she ain’t white like the young lady Kobe strong armed.

  11. I don’t know what is so complicated about this. Chris Brown is a coward and a scared little piece of crap. He deserves to go to prison, state not federal, so he’ll get what he has coming to him. The record company knows he can still make them money so they will get him out of this and he will be making music in the somewhat near future once this is patched up and blows over.
    As for Rihanna, since she is taking him back she is stupid and has little to no self respect. Despite the fact that she makes millions and can have pretty much any man she wants she chooses to take a man who will endanger her health and life. Like many other famous women, she needs to get past the need to have a man as a status symbol.

  12. thismayconcernyou

    After seeing her mug and reading the police report, Chris Brown could be headed to jail.
    However, I’m not so sure his career is over. There are too many 15-year-old girls in love with him who are seeing a bad example in Rihanna getting back with him. Those girls will still buy his records, mostly because they don’t care to understand substance or artistry.
    But you’re right. It’s seems like it would be tough to judge the situation from the outside looking in. I’m not so sure it is, though.
    Once you lay hands. Game over. If someone disrespects you so much that they decide that they can pummel you and allegedly say “i’m gonna kill you” in the process, your life is forever in danger around that person. Again, game over.
    Great post. Now I want to listen to Bill Withers.

  13. I agree with you about his talent. Though I will say that the general consensus among my generation is that Chris was some how “right” and while the white folks are certainly done with him [maybe], he still has “cool points” where people think it “matters”. Chris and Rihanna are a microcosm of an epidemic among young blacks. and that is that somehow arguing and fighting is normnal and it equates to love.

  14. rihnna wat in the hell are you doing to yourself with that video umbrella.You see wat they named it thought provoking rihnna and wats worse is that they have your pics and words under them like the devil, possessed evil entity etc this is not good why in the hell did you sell you soul to the devil are you crazy you getting caught up in the fame to much that you had to do this you should’ve sell you soul to the almighty and to think that you grew up in the church you family is very disapointed in you especially your mother i missy hurts to see it and hear it if that was me i would really like to make my mother proud you got an oppurtunity to show your talent that some people would like that you have and look at wat u doing with it if you don’t want it give it to someone who will appreciate it i still love you so all i can tell you is that i will con’t to pray for you and i love you.God Bless.Peace.

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