News that Chris Brown and Rihanna have collaborated on two new songs has caused a storm of controversy. R&B star Brown was convicted of assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009 during an argument; according to the police report, he repeatedly punched and bit the ‘Umbrella’ singer, and threatened to kill her.
Creepy? Writing for Jezebel, Cassie Murdoch found listening to Rihanna and Chris Brown’s collaborations ‘Birthday Cake’ and ‘Turn Up The Music’ an uncomfortable experience. Murdoch pointed out that Brown’s first lyrics on ‘Birthday Cake’ are “‘Girl, I wanna fuck you right now. Been a long time, I’ve been missing your body.’ *shudder*”
Like Bobby and Whitney. “Though neither [Brown] nor Rihanna will comment on the possibility of a rekindled romance, it’s difficult to ignore the loads of emotional energy between the two in the new singles,” wrote Allison Samuels at The Daily Beast. Samuels was concerned that the two singers seem “completely unaware of the conflicting and damaging message they’re sending their young fans—and of the slippery slope they both stand upon”, suggesting that their relationship is reminiscent of the stormy marriage of the late Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.
Don’t pity Chris Brown. “Essentially, abusive men choose to abuse,” said Emily Bazelon at Slate, pointing to research that suggests men who beat women suffer from bad value systems rather than psychological problems. Bazalon criticised the Grammys organisers’ decision to allow Brown to perform on the 2012 show, where he won an award for best R&B album: “That’s a warm embrace from his industry and his community. You can’t shun someone you’re clapping for. You can see Brown basking in the glow of approval—the only ugly way he seems to know how—in his tweet calling his Grammy ‘the ultimate F*** OFF!”
Both sides of the argument. Amanda Dobbins was conflicted at New York Magazine’s Vulture. On the one hand, she asked, “Who are we to tell this 24-year-old woman, who has been through hell, and in front of the world, how to live her life?” On the other hand, said Dobbins, “There’s a difference between taking control of the story and publicly accepting the man who brutally beat her. Especially when the forgiveness is professional, not personal, and comes off as an attempt to make money off of the resultant controversy.” What’s particularly sad is that the latest controversy focuses on Rihanna, argued Dobbins, when in fact we should be scrutinising Brown’s behavior.
Nothing to be done. Brown was officially convicted of “spousal abuse”, and the legal term obscures the actual violence of the assault, pointed out Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic: “Chris Brown bashed Rihanna’s head into a car window, threatened her with death, repeatedly punched her, bit her, and then choked her until she began to lose consciousness. It’s important to understand that ‘domestic violence’ is actual–often lethal–violence.” However, Coates argued that you can’t force someone to make “good choices”, and rather than hand-wringing over Rihanna, the general outrage would be better directed “toward the women who lack the tools to excise themselves from violent situations. There are women in the world who live under this sort of constant threat, but because of children or finances or family, simply don’t have an out.”