|Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nomor95 under Creative Commons 3.0|
I used to like Chris Brown. And not just because he was really, really, ridiculously good-looking.
At a time when everyone seemed to be "in love with a stripper," Brown was more respectfully interested in more modest women, like the ones he chased in "Excuse Me, Miss." And when most music wanted you to "shake that ass" for them, Brown wanted to dance with you; "Forever."
I even had "Kiss Kiss" as my ringtone for a while. Because ringtones were thing. And I used to really like Chris Brown.
When he and Rihanna performed together at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, it seemed like a match made in pop culture heaven. I was even a little jealous.
But that was almost 4 years ago. A lot has changed since then.
In February of 2009, Brown was arrested for assaulting Rihanna. According to sources for E! news, "she suffered visible bruises on her face during an early morning confrontation." The couple skipped the Grammys the next day-- even though both were nominated for awards and scheduled to perform.
After spending some time apart, the two reconciled at P.Diddy's Florida mansion. While reports made it clear Rihanna's family was concerned, "her father Ronald Fenty said he would support his daughter whatever decision she made."
Brown was sentenced that August, receiving 5 years of probation. The hearing revealed the couple had been involved in two other incidents of domestic violence before the very public February ordeal.
By November, they were officially over, and Rihanna was speaking out against domestic violence. During a particularly painful interview, she admitted going back was a mistake and that she was embarrassed by her decision.
Fast forward to February of this year, when a judge lifted Brown's restraining order-- supposedly to make award shows less awkward.
Both careers continue to flourish. Brown has even released a new album, F.A.M.E. which he recently promoted on Good Morning America. But when he was asked about the past, Brown flipped and split.
"ABC News said Brown smashed a window in his dressing room after his interview with GMA's co-host Robin Roberts on Tuesday. Roberts had asked Brown about the Grammy eve beating two years ago, for which he is still on probation."He apologized and "noted that he didn't physically harm anyone." But property damage, instead of assault, isn't exactly a personal victory.
Brown desperately wants to move on. But people aren't going to forget. And they shouldn't.
In a world where too much domestic violence goes undocumented, Brown needs to be held accountable. Otherwise, the courage it took Rihanna to come forward was all in vain.
Usually celebrities wrong the unknown. But in this instance, both parties were already famous, so the victim had agency. Rihanna had access to the same news outlets as her assailant. And her story wasn't overshadowed by Brown's popularity because she was equally popular.
No one assumed Rihanna was doing it for money or fame. She was simply doing it because it was right. And everyone saw how difficult it was for her to come forward. Rihanna, like all victims, would gain very little. She had more to lose by telling the truth.
But Brown is still trying to make a comeback. The first single off his new album (the same song he performed on Good Morning America, before he stormed off) is rather predictable; go to the club, pop bottles, yell things (like "yeah") and hopefully hook up. Just another day in the life.
And the music video for "Yeah 3x" showcases Brown's dancing, which increasingly defies gravity.
But when it comes time to "break it down," Brown says rather something disturbing:
"All the pretty young things in the party-- lemme see your hands up. And if they mad and they don't wanna party-- tell 'em shut the fuck up."
Normally, these non-rhymes would pass under the radar, almost completely undetected. But it's harder to stomach Brown's aggressive language, given his violent tendencies.
Offended, my immediate response was; "Don't tell me to shut the fuck up, Chris Brown."
Typically, musical misogyny is merely a performance. But I stopped giving Brown the benefit of the doubt once he blurred the line between questionable lyrics and unforgivable actions.
Of course it's problematic that hyperbole involving sexual objectification and violence against women sells music-- but real, documented violence is totally unacceptable.
While Brown has tweeted his thanks to followers for their overwhelming support, this is one former fan who is not impressed. Or buying it. And as far as I'm concerned, it's over.