Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why Chris Brown is hard to forgive

R&B star Chris Brown has a new album out called Fortune, and one particular review by a Chad Taylor of the Des Moines Cityview has gone viral for its brilliant simplicity.

The women, or woman, in question is obviously his singer ex-girlfriend Rihanna, and while this is a few years ago now, lots of people are in no hurry to forgive Brown. Yet on the other side of things, there are plenty of people, notably young women, who seem determined not just to forgive him for beating and choking her, but to justify his behaviour on account of him being hot and talented, or something like that. If you wanna know what I mean, check here and here.

But is Chad Taylor's 6-word "album review" a justified critique of Chris Brown?

Brown is not the first celebrity to be guilty of heinous violence against women, and he won't be the last. This recent article in the LA Times suggests that his race may be a factor in many people's reluctance to move on and see past his behaviour, since other white stars have done arguably worse yet not been shunned in the same way.

There is possibly an element of truth in that. More of it, I'd argue, is that the women assaulted by Campbell and Sheen are not nearly as well known as Rihanna, who is arguably the biggest singing star in the world right now. That's not right but it's the way the world works.

But there's another layer to it. Like most people, I believe that even the best of us can make terrible mistakes, and shouldn't necessarily be condemned for life because of them. Most people seem willing to forgive a celebrity's sins, to a certain extent, if certain conditions are met.

Firstly, it helps if they are exceptionally talented.Again, it may not be right, but people are more than happy to overlook the domestic violence perpetrated by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown (no relation), largely because James has contributed a phenomenal amount to music in a way that Chris will never do. Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. were sufficiently talented and compelling rappers that most of us will overlook the evidence that indicates they were rather shitty human beings (2Pac did time for serious sexual assault and Biggie for dealing crack cocaine). Michael Jackson may well have been guilty of one of our society's greatest taboos - child molestation - yet millions still worship him.

Suffice to say, Chris Brown the artist is not on a level anywhere near MJ, JB, 2Pac and Biggie, no matter what his record sales might say.

Secondly, we want some contrition from the artist. And while Brown has seemingly said all the right things about that incident with Rihanna, his actions can't help but make us think he's not really all that sorry. Where he originally sang typically innocuous commercial R&B, Brown has increasingly embraced the image of the playa, the bad boy. He was involved in that big nightclub brawl with the entourage of rapper Drake. He and his fans - "Team Breezy", as that pack of idiots call themselves - rail endlessly about "haters". He released the execrable single Look at me now which is all about how much money he is making and how everyone is on his dick. Compare that to James Brown, whose music was always fuelled by positivity and social conscience, regardless of what he might have been doing in his private life.

So given that the album is almost certainly a piece of crap anyway, I think Chad Taylor's review is a legitimate comment on the Chris Brown phenomenon. People don't become megastars without the backing of the mass media, and the mass media is still pushing Chris Brown's worthless music on us like it's gold. I do believe that people make mistakes and can redeem themselves, and as celebrities go, Brown is hardly the worst perpetrator of undesirable acts. But he's still out there trying to act like a badass, and the industry is still foisting him upon us anyway. So to me, this reviewer is in effect saying, "Enough of this shit", and I too have had enough.

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