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Rihanna's 'Birthday Cake': Reasons to listen
February 22, 2012 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Rihanna's 'Birthday Cake': Reasons to listen (Ann Powers, NPR) "I'm choosing to do something else, though — to wrestle with the material at hand. As a music critic and, on a personal level, as someone who's long considered pop to be a crucial avenue for understanding the intricacies of the human heart and soul, I'm committed to engaging with the music that makes us sit up and take notice. I'm willing to try, even if those songs expose or even encourage aspects of behaviors that aren't so savory. I don't think "Turn Up the Music" tells us much; "Birthday Cake" is a different matter. So I'll continue trying to grasp what's happening in a song that makes many — but not all — of us want to turn away." (Potentially triggering all round.)

Chris Brown perfomed twice and won an award at the Grammys on Sunday February 12th, two years after his brutal physical assault (trigger warning: photos and description) on then-girlfriend Rihanna led to her performance being cancelled. Brown lashed out at criticism on Twitter (and then deleted the tweets), evidently seeing his award as vindication.

Just as the Grammys controversy was dying down, Rihanna and Brown confirmed speculation that they had been collaborating, each releasing a remix featuring the other. The result has been a shitstorm, with the remixed described as "Cynical. Painful. And unbearably pathetic.", trollgaze and, er, GENIUS mind-fucking the world.

Birthday Cake (Remix) - Rihanna feat. Chris Brown
Turn Up the Music (Remix) - Chris Brown feat. Rihanna
posted by carbide (74 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously, somehow missed it while searching. Aaaargh, sorry.
posted by carbide at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2012


The music industry and music fans told Rihanna quite plainly that Chris Brown beating the shit out of her was no big deal. It seems terribly wrong to get angry at Rihanna for listening to them.
posted by mightygodking at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2012 [27 favorites]


I bet that someone, somewhere, is going to come to the conclusion that "this must mean that they faked the whole assault thing two years ago as some publicity stunt."

And if I ever meet that person and they state this opinion to me I will kick them in the crotch.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 AM on February 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


(Is it possible to listen to this essay rather than read it? Just wondering...)
posted by koeselitz at 7:37 AM on February 22, 2012


Looks like it's only a matter of time now. Do I hear wedding bells?
posted by ReeMonster at 7:41 AM on February 22, 2012


And if I ever meet that person and they state this opinion to me I will kick them in the crotch.

I think it's great that you reaction to a physical abuse incident is to do more physical abuse.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:42 AM on February 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


I think it's great that you reaction to a physical abuse incident is to do more physical abuse.

Please don't do this.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:44 AM on February 22, 2012 [24 favorites]


Care to give a reason Rory?
posted by biffa at 7:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please don't do this.

Point out that repeating the cycle of violence doesn't help?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh Ri-Ri, what are you doing :(
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:47 AM on February 22, 2012


Because it derails the discussion, and it's disingenuous to equate the use of cathartic language with actual physical violence, and the blithe dismissal of physical violence as something that was instigated by the victim.

When I send out a tweet that I will cut the next person to spoil My Favourite TV Show, I--surprise--don't intend on actually harming them with a knife.
posted by Phire at 7:48 AM on February 22, 2012 [56 favorites]


"Maybe that's what happens when a tornado meets a volcano."
posted by chavenet at 7:48 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The entire Talk That Talk album is sexually charged (one track is called "Suck My Cockiness")... Birthday Cake is probably the most confusing track on the album and now that the remix has come out the whole story line seems more calculated. The two tweet at each other and do whatever they can to rowel up the public. This is starting to feel like one giant PR coordination to cover up the fact that Rihanna doesn't want the pressure of being a role model to young girls. She is pushing the boundaries into R rated content so that she will be moved out of the cutesy Katy Perry category.
posted by achpea at 7:50 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pointing stuff out to people seems fine if you think it's important, but if what you want is a conversation about those important things then I think it is probably best to do it without using sarcasm.
posted by koeselitz at 7:51 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frankly, I don't follow enough entertainment media to know if this is much of a story outside of pro wrestling circles, but WWE Champion CM Punk (who, let's be honest, trades on being a loud-mouthed asshole, and whose recent mic work has featured more than a little bit of embarrassing sexism) has gotten into a bizarre tweet war (warning: TMZ) with Chris Brown.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


uncleozzy: John Laurinaitis's response, too.
posted by carbide at 7:57 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"And if I ever meet that person and they state this opinion to me I will kick them in the crotch" is still a dumb as shit thing to say considering the particular topic at hand.
posted by gman at 7:58 AM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Guys, cut it out, for crap's sake.
posted by cortex at 7:59 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Folks, we understand if you need to go to MetaTalk but maybe do the OP a favor and don't wreck their thread with sniping? Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 AM on February 22, 2012


regarding the tweet war with the wrestler, chris brown has posted on twitter: "I really hope this 15 minutes of fame is paying you for the long run becuz music last forever! Wrestlers come and go according to ratings!"

I think someone should tell Brown that musicians come and go based on ratings too. And if he thinks anyone will remember his music 10 years from now (or maybe even sooner) then he is incredibly misguided.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:02 AM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Birthday Cake is probably the most confusing track on the album and now that the remix has come out the whole story line seems more calculated.

Yeah, this is kind of a fascinating aspect to this story. The track on the album is only about a minute long, and fades out just as the lyrics start getting really explicit. I thought that was a strange choice, and I figured that a remix was on the way. It makes me feel like this collaboration is a label-created publicity stunt, rather than genuine reconciliation on her part. The fact that the "Birthday Cake" remix was balanced on the same day by her appearing on his single also makes it seem somehow "transactional," rather than a favor done for a friend or partner, you know?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:02 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having seen close friends go through the hell of being abused, I think I can understand what's going on here. It's not (at least I don't think it is) a contrived cynical attempt to get press. Rather, it is a young woman who through one path or another has convinced herself that her abuser has changed and things can be okay again.

I hope, for her sake, that it ends better and less painful than it has for the women I know who have returned to their abusers over and over.

The cycle of abuse is truly a wicked thing and it's heartbreaking when people get sucked up in it.
posted by teleri025 at 8:03 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


achpea: I think you have a really good point that Rihanna may just be trying to change her image. Maybe she's tired of being defined as Chris Brown's victim, and wants to prove (in a misguided, squicky way) that she's not afraid of him.

I'm not familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence, so I'm trying to refrain from judging her, but I wish she hadn't collaborated with him right at the height of his unapologetic arrogance concerning his public vindication (although I'm aware that there was a certain amount of publicity-garnering in his tweets).
posted by sundaydriver at 8:03 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree we should not derail the thread. I think it would be more interesting to discuss why this disposable, forgettable and meaningless crappy pop music gets so much press. But well we know the answer to that question. I'm just curious if anyone in their right mind thinks either of these "recording artists" are making anything worthwhile to pass along to future musicians. They are two of the most cynical pop artists out there. Just watch. The next thread we'll be seeing on MeFi will be about Rihanna's baby-bump. These people, BOTH of them, make me sick.

You know what, I'm not a fan of Rihanna's music, outside of Umbrella's one incredible hook. She seems like a really sweet person who loves making her fans happy, I have no problem with her as a person, but I don't dig her music. Whatever.

"Worthwhile" is a stupid thing to ask pop music to be. I'm sure it makes thousands of people sing in the car or the shower or with their friends. That's a net positive. Will future musicians love it? I'm sure some will. When millions of people hear a song, usually a few of those millions will look back on it fondly. Frank Zappa loved doo-whop, Girl Talk loves shitty rock-n-roll. Artistic innovation is not a utilitarian calculus: people love what they love, and everything has some impact.

I don't follow pop press and I don't think I'm missing out on anything. That doesn't change the fact that Chris Brown beat Rihanna severely and doesn't seem to regret what he did a smudge. That's repulsive, and I think it's repulsive that he's given a complete break for what he did.

What's more, I think it's kind of abhorrent to shit on Rihanna for her actions. She's fucking 24 years old! She dated Chris Brown for how long? She's a young girl who's gone through something traumatic WITH A HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE WATCHING AND JUDGING HER, and many of those millions blame her for giving Brown bad PR. You seriously think a 24-year-old girl ought to have the mental faculties to go about her life or her career after that without doing some really weird things?

Congratulations, brah, you figured out there's cynicism in the pop industry. That doesn't mean the people who work in it have lost their humanity, or that we shouldn't feel compassion for them.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [36 favorites]


The music industry and music fans told Rihanna quite plainly that Chris Brown beating the shit out of her was no big deal. It seems terribly wrong to get angry at Rihanna for listening to them.

Only if I assume that she was never supposed to think for herself in the first place.
posted by Edgewise at 8:07 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Aren't these two well past their best-before dates? It isn't a diss to point out that a big album or couple of singles doesn't a career make, and neither of them seem to be resonating particularly well with an audience that means anything (i.e., anyone associated with the Gra[mm|nn]ies).
posted by clvrmnky at 8:07 AM on February 22, 2012


John Laurinaitis's response, too.

It is actually a little interesting that the WWE is taking an official stance on the subject by acknowledging it at all. It's a safe position, of course, but it would be nice if the WWE would get a clue and also stop airing programming full of blatantly misogynist language and storylines.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:08 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Edgewise-- I get that it's popular to say that humans are resilient and can think for themselves and can't be affected by anything anyone says to them or by being surrounded by cultural messages that tell them how to think and feel--- but in general most humans are affected by the climate and beliefs they are surrounded by. It's not regarding one person as weaker than another to acknowledge that all of us as human beings are vulnerable to this kind of influence and that people often over-estimate how much they think "for themselves" vs have found a group of people that shares their views (however much they may have chosen that particular group, they are likely to still need to find others they can relate to and are subject to be influenced by the particular groups opinions they choose)

If Chris Brown should be forgiven and trusted by society, and even looked up to by society, why should she not forgive him and give him second chances at rebuilding trust?

Isn't that what our society seems to think is the appropriate response?
posted by xarnop at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


The music industry and music fans told Rihanna quite plainly that Chris Brown beating the shit out of her was no big deal. It seems terribly wrong to get angry at Rihanna for listening to them.

This is so on point. I remain disgusted at all the things I saw after the initial events and pictures came to light. I mean there is nasty stuff on the internet, but seeing teenage girls and all sorts of people in general excitedly defending Chris Brown and saying "well she must have done something to deserve it" just made me disgusted. A lot of people are just ignorant though, and years later will cringe and wonder what they were thinking.

It's a complex but fucked up situation and I await the next Jay Smooth video because I know he'll encapsulate it in a way that I agree with.
posted by cashman at 8:16 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll be, let's say, upset with her. Further, I'm angry at those around her.
She is in a position of incredible influence with young women. The number of interviews I've heard with young women who deny the guy's abusive nature and/or volunteer to be beaten by him is sickening.
Yeah, she's young, and yeah, being abused fucks with your head.
Regardless, I think that she has a certain responsibility to not model self-abusive behavior. If there are those around her who are encouraging her to interact with this really shitty human being, then I don't know how they sleep at night.
But she's an adult. Until she's judged incompetent, I think it disrespects her to say that she has no choice but to interact with said piece of shit. And I think she's making some deeply stupid choices here.
posted by angrycat at 8:34 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remember hearing Rated R (and seeing the "Russian Roulette" video) and feeling sick to my stomach. It's an album that's clearly examining some thorny - and taboo - elements of domestic abuse, including the tendency of some victims to remain hopelessly attached and unable to break away from their tormentors. She's doing some things, perhaps intentionally, that haven't really been done with the pop format before, getting into some really messy, frightening, bleak territory. This is the reality of love and relationships for many people out there, and so in some ways it's refreshing that she's not just making some shiny club hits without substance. I couldn't listen to the album more than once or twice, though, because there's too much psychological scars and trauma and conflict. I hope she's getting some help or has someone in her life assisting her with these issues, or she'll be on track for further tragedy (I don't really want to bring up Whitney Houston's name, but well, I guess I just did.)
posted by naju at 8:36 AM on February 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Life gets a lot easier to deal with when you stop expecting celebrities to be any less flawed, fucked up, and confused than everyone else.

I am so sick and tired of hearing about how so-and-so is a bad "role model". You know who the bad role model in those situations are? The fuckwits who aren't providing a more attainable, realistic role model for "the kids".

In less than 10 years whatever celebrity is so popular now will be resigned to a lament about "all the crap I was into as a kid", whereas parents, teachers, and other authority figures, the good and bad they do will stick with you pretty much for life.

She's not a role model, she's a singer / entertainer. Quit championing her so-called free will and then expecting her to lead the dialogue on your pet issue.

Chris Brown isn't a role model either. That's all I'm going to say; not in the mood to skate the line between libel and ranting today.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:42 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


"She is in a position of incredible influence with young women. The number of interviews I've heard with young women who deny the guy's abusive nature and/or volunteer to be beaten by him is sickening."

I certainly agree with you that her decisions, actions, and media presence could influence many young woman and that it would be ideal if she used that power for good to help others. However how is saying that she is "an adult" and therefore capable of making good decisions in this situation-- not the same thing as saying that all young women who are over 18 are adults and capable of making their own decisions no matter what she does?

Saying that she is accountable for influencing others without acknowledging that she may be under "influence" herself doesn't make much sense.

If you're only talking about her influence on girls who are not adult yet then it comes back to freedom of speech issues and whether the media should base it's performances and messages based on how it will influence minors, or whether adults have a responsability to protect and educate their children about messages in the media.
posted by xarnop at 8:43 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was thinking about Rihanna and Chris Brown recently. I know that it took me a huge amount of effort to leave an emotionally abusive relationship, and I had a support group of people who told me I deserved to be treated better and I didn't have to put up with that. Rihanna has had the opposite, she's been told it's no big deal.

Also, I wasn't thrust into a position where I was the poster girl for domestic abuse, and she was. It took me 3 times to actually leave. She's young, and she has a world watching and criticizing her every move.

I am horrified at this whole situation because I understand where she is coming from with the conflicted emotions, and I am so upset that so many spins I see of this blame her for going back. I keep seeing a message of victim blaming "don't go back to someone who beat you or you deserve what you get" or "these two can work it out" rather than a message of "don't fucking beat women".
posted by Nimmie Amee at 8:43 AM on February 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


I think it disrespects her to say that she has no choice but to interact with said piece of shit. And I think she's making some deeply stupid choices here.

I guess the question is, to what extent is she making choices at all? We don't know how much of this is her decision and how much is label driven. I'd actually be surprised if her label gave her any authority at all as to who is making guest appearances on her tracks. Her twitter account is clearly her own, and while she has linked to the remixes and made some references to Chris Brown, she hasn't exactly gone out of her way to interact with him. Maybe that is a calculated effort to avoid disapproval, or maybe her conciliatory tweets have been encouraged by her label. By the way, I thought it was a total controlling ex douchebag move of him to tweet her birthday -- "Happy Birthday Robyn!" -- using her real name.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:44 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think in these cases since kids will hear these songs, the best approach for parents is to see this as a learning opportunity to talk with kids about what domestic violence is like, about what to do if it happens to you, or even if you are the one who loses control of your behavior-- and why the messages in the media/society are so mixed up about it. The truth is I'm nost sure parents know exactly what to say because I think in truth, a lot of us are pretty confused about it. We all think the woman should leave.... and other than that... we don't really know what to make of it other being mad at women for staying and either saying the guy is a piece of shit, or he's understandable and has issues the woman is at fault for enabling him. (I.e. the man is forgivable because his behavior is the result of "issues" wheras her behavior is not forgivable because it's not the result of issues and is purely her feely made deliberate choice.) Or they're both just bad bad bad and unredeamable, in which case, why would either of them leave each other rather than lean on each other in face of being equally disliked by society?

Or they're both redeemable and forgivable and have both made bad decisions, in which case again, why should they not forgive each other and "work on it"?

The various messages I see in society are pretty confusing to me.
posted by xarnop at 8:51 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I guess I'm arguing that she's playing a bad hand poorly. She didn't ask to be made the poster-person for domestic abuse, but she's become one. She's probably got some bad people who are furthering her interaction with him.

But I have sympathy also for those young women who are more likely to get beat up and/or stay in abusive relationships because they look up to this person. There are a lot more of them than there are of her. It's possible to simultaneously sympathize with someone in her position and criticize the harms that result from her actions related to that position.
posted by angrycat at 8:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Looking through the various articles on here I am not seeing her being mentioned much as a songwriter. The few mentions I see seem to have songs with five or six (mostly male) collaborators where maybe she just added a few lines. Inso far as she is "putting out a message", I am with Rock Steady where I wonder how much is her message and how much is her being controlled by others with significant leverage over her and maybe not her best interests at heart.
posted by saucysault at 8:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rhianna is fast becoming the Ian Curtis of R&B. Her music speaks to some very deep dysfunction and trauma, and she does her best to articulate the reality of her feelings and experience. What she does is not good for you, but it reflects a deep emotional truth. That's why she's an artist, rather than a copywriter for public-service announcements, which is what many people seem to prefer.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:01 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


angrycat-I agree with you in a sense completely, but she is subject to the same forces as those other other women you see as being "more vulnerable". Her status doesn't really make her any less influenced by what she has seen happening in her life and the social messages around her. As much as she should stand up and be strong and end domestic violence and take a stand against-- so every woman (and man) should magically be capable of standing up to all the mixed messages, societal ideas about it, what they have seen in their actual lives and families, their own internal weaknesses and needs for love and acceptance, and the media representations; and just magically know the right thing to do and be capable of carrying it out right away. Everyone SHOULD do the right thing in the face of domestic violence. But most people take a little while to figure it out... and hopefully they make it alive until they are able to be done with the cycle.

And the truth is I think a lot of people are a little mixed up on whether men (or women) who have been violent deserve forgiveness and second chances to make it in society and in relationships. If as a society we are certain that any person who has ever committed an act of violence should never be permitted to have a romantic relationship again-- then we need to make that message clear. In general I think most people tend to think that's "a bit harsh" and that there should be a process of second chances. If that is what we believe as a society, we need to get more clear about how the second/third/etc chance process should work--- and we should acknowledge that many partners will want to stay together and "work it out" as a result of this belief system.
posted by xarnop at 9:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I wrong that there is no shortage of fans and media who don't mind sharing their opinion that Chris Brown is a total scumbag? A lot of people seem to be of the opinion that no one speaks out about Chris Brown being an abuser or actually support him, but I've only seen a few idiots on Twitter linked to that do that.
posted by Hoopo at 9:09 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


xarnop, I agree with your first point.

W/r/t the second, I agree that it's confusing. However, when it comes to giving people second chances, I wouldn't see Brown as fit for them at the moment, given that he's recently talked about beating up people like little bitches and sent out steroid-rage like tweets. Not saying that you're arguing that he's worthy or whatnot. Just noting my astonishment that there is popular support for the idea that he's rehabillitated, given his behavior.
posted by angrycat at 9:13 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


A lot of people seem to be of the opinion that no one speaks out about Chris Brown being an abuser or actually support him, but I've only seen a few idiots on Twitter linked to that do that.

People speak out about it, but without giving percentages, let me just say it is a lot more than just a few "idiots" that support Chris Brown. In fact, it's beyond support for a lot of people, they are outright defending him and making it seem like he is the victim. And I assure you it isn't like 3 or 4 idiots on twitter alone.
posted by cashman at 9:16 AM on February 22, 2012


Boy, the situation sucks, but why is there so much anger? Yeah, in our ideal world the abused woman stands up to her abuser, confronts him in court, picks herself up and moves on with her life. And if she's a public figure, she goes on to make statements against domestic violence and empowering women to escape their own situations.

But Jesus, it's not called the "cycle of abuse" for nothing. All Rhianna seems to be doing here is re-enacting the very same patterns the vast majority of DV victims go through. After all, aren't most DV charges dropped because the victims refuse to prosecute? Aren't most incidences of DV repeat--the abuser does not only keep abusing, but the abused keeps returning? The fact that Rhianna is a public figure doesn't mean she's immune from this cycle. Nor does it change that she's young, and young people by definition aren't always acting with the greatest self-confidence, maturity, and self-awareness. Add the pressure of the public eye and her behavior is not unexpected.

Provided this whole remix thing isn't some publicity calculation, Rhianna doesn't need our shaming, she needs our pity and a therapist.
posted by schroedinger at 9:18 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really really strongly disagree with the way the media seems to be focusing on Rihanna and her choices, and not going after Brown, after the horrible way he acted. Someone linked to the entire police transcript of what went down between them in the other Chris Brown thread and it was horrible! He then issued a half-assed apology, broke some windows and is now happily hosting the Grammys. I think it's a distraction, and victim-blame-y to portray Rihanna as an idiot for collaborating with Brown, when all of society seems to be expecting her to. No one's an island and immune to social pressure, and I don't think it makes her any less strong. Maybe if mainstream media did more to explain exactly how much of an asshole Brown is, she'd find it easier to stand up to her label and refuse to work with him? Instead he's being portrayed as this stand-up guy, who's been victimized by all the negative publicity. It makes me sick.
posted by peacheater at 9:27 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Rhianna doesn't write lyrics, doesn't write music, right?

So this idea that she's "messaging" us, singing about her experiences, trying to break out of her mold, where's it coming from?

I suspect Rhinna has as much control over her life as a toddler. She is much too valuable to allow her to make decisions.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:39 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regardless of what sorts of judgments are being made about the decisions that either of them have made, what's disheartening to me is how all of this frantic and angry discourse repeatedly slips off Chris Brown and sticks to Rihanna. It's uncanny how media focus continually drifts to the woman in abuse cases, even when the coverage is more supportive than it is here.
posted by LMGM at 9:40 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Rhianna doesn't write lyrics, doesn't write music, right?

So this idea that she's "messaging" us, singing about her experiences, trying to break out of her mold, where's it coming from?


I can't speak to her recent stuff, but this is from an interview re: Rated R, in which she's listed as a songwriter in 9 out of the 13 songs:

“This was a different type of record for me,” she says in her steady island lilt, sitting in a backstage dressing room after taping a BET show. “It was really personal; it was from me in the most authentic way. It’s like a movie”—hence the title—“in that when I was making this album, every day I was in a different mood. Sometimes I was pissed off, sometimes I was miserable, and every song brings out a different story.”
For the first time, she was intimately involved with the lyrics, writing many of them herself and spending time with her collaborators (who included Jeezy, Justin Timberlake and Ne-Yo) explaining her emotions and working on translating them. “It’s still hard to listen to certain songs,” she admits. “Certain ones I couldn’t even record—I’d keep pushing them back [on the schedule].” There was one track in particular she had a hard time facing. Called “The Last Song,” it has lyrics that read like the final goodbye to a great love. “When the label finally said we had 12 hours to turn in the album, I was like, Okay, I have to do it. I just drank some red wine, dimmed the lights, got in the booth and sang it.”

posted by naju at 9:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to err on the side of assuming someone I've never met is capable if making their own decisions. Who knows what has been said in private?
posted by desjardins at 9:46 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Great comments from mightygodking and Rory Marinich, to say nothing of Nimee Amee's really thoughtful post bringing in personal experience with domestic violence. Hear, hear, all of you.

I have been so tempted the past couple of years by the thought that the people around Rihanna could help her get out of this cycle -- was I the only one kind of secretly hoping that Jay-Z would roll up to Chris Brown with a couple of his guys and threaten to beat the crap out of him if he ever touched the young woman again? -- but it is just not always that simple (especially for celebs), as Nimee points out. And my heroic Jay-Z narrative sounds kind of cool, but it is ultimately disempowering for women to promote fantasies of a non-abusive man coming to their rescue and beating up the abuser.

I think what has gotten lost in this thread, a little bit, is how society as a whole sends a lot of really mixed messages around things like domestic violence -- how we talk about it in hushed tones as if it's a dirty secret, how we ignore that a huge portion of violent assaults and murders occur in homes (focusing instead on 'random' violence, like being shot by a mugger or something), and how we are all too quick to welcome back perpetrators of this kind of violence. I'm all for redemption and second chances, and we cannot pretend that our prison system is about rehabilitation if we were to permanently shame those guilty of crimes... but people like Chris Brown get a pretty easy treatment in the public eye.

Just a little timeline for you:
Early 2009: Rihanna canceled her Grammy appearance because of the domestic violence incident. (Wiki isn't totally clear on the date of the incident; it appears to be around Feb. 9.)
June 2009: Brown sentenced to five years of probation for felony assault.
Sept. 2009: Brown releases the first single from his album Graffiti.

I don't think anybody on this thread has made the claim that he 'did his time' and deserves a chance at a comeback, but I've certainly seen that idea kicked around other forums. As MGK pointed out, the music industry clearly didn't give a crap, and people kept buying his albums. What I think should have happened was for Brown to have gotten a harsher sentence (it was for *felony assault*, btw) than simply probation, and the industry and society as a whole should have stayed far away from him for quite a while, until he could show contrition and illustrate that he was not an abuser of women, and maybe even speak out about domestic violence. Too much to ask? I don't think so.

Quick side story: There was a bit of a minor scandal in Seattle a while back when the local baseball team, the Mariners, acquired a pitcher named Josh Lueke, who had been convicted of rape and sodomy of a woman just a few months before. However, things died down after a couple months, and by the next season opener (when this scumbag was still on our roster), I was one of the only people among my social circle who kept speaking out against him. I booed him when he came into a game that season, and I doubt most people knew why. I had a couple friends who said they were less concerned with that than with how effective he could be coming out of the bullpen, for flip's sake. (He has since been traded away.)

My point with this story, as with my comments above about Brown:
We should be more vocal when we see abusers of women get what is essentially a free pass from society. We should not be making it seem as if it isn't a big deal when someone commits violence against women.
posted by jsr1138 at 10:02 AM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


This makes me sad, especially having watched the Diane Sawyer interview pseudonymph linked to in the last thread about Chris Brown, where Rihanna was so very righteous and lucid about the wrongness of Brown's actions, the mad soup of emotions she felt in the aftermath of the beating (love, shame, pity, hatred), how difficult it was for her to leave him, and how motivated she was by what she saw as her responsibility to model self-preservation for the young girls who look up to her. But I can think of a million reasons why she would do what she's doing, so I don't blame her. I DO blame Chris Brown for his utterly dishonourable conduct since the night he smashed her head into the window of a moving car - his public demands on her attention, his backwards encouraging of his fans to view him as a victim (as he himself does clearly - Team Breezy!), and just his continuing to be such an absolutely repellent motherfucking jackass, goddamn.

"Worthwhile" is a stupid thing to ask pop music to be.

Totally disagree. Worthwhileness has to be the most forgiving criterion on which to evaluate anything; everything should at least be worthwhile in the eyes of people who support it. The thing is, Rihanna's music totally is. She's terrific. It's rare for a pop star to start out as an absolute cipher vocally (albeit one attached to an astounding number of awesome songs) and actually grow into someone who can convey a mood, a feeling, and a point of view in her singing. But Rihanna did that on Loud. S&M brought a tear to my eye.

Finally, Am I wrong that there is no shortage of fans and media who don't mind sharing their opinion that Chris Brown is a total scumbag? A lot of people seem to be of the opinion that no one speaks out about Chris Brown being an abuser or actually support him, but I've only seen a few idiots on Twitter linked to that do that.

Some of my stupider cousins and ex-classmates have been gloating on facebook for like a week already.

posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:05 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really really strongly disagree with the way the media seems to be focusing on Rihanna and her choices, and not going after Brown, after the horrible way he acted

For me it's because Rihanna is the only one that we can hope might turn this sort of exploitative crap down. It's completely understandable why Chris Brown would do this. He's the bad guy here, a self-absorbed abusive asshole, of course he's going to jump any chance he has to "redeem himself" or whatever the hell he thinks he's doing. He basically would have to kill and eat puppies on youtube to get any lower after what he's done already. Rihanna is the only one here that deserves any consideration at all, and she's the person for whom Chris Brown's staying relevant would seem to have the biggest downside. That's why when I read this my first thought was about Rihanna and her choices.
posted by Hoopo at 10:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


None of this makes any sense to me. I had barely only ever heard of one song by Brown before the assault incident. Rihanna seems like a MUCH bigger deal. She's talented, she's lovely, she seems to have real personality and her songs have broad appeal. Brown is...Brown is just another guy doing what a dozen like him do, only on top of it, he makes me want to punch him even besides the domestic violence stuff.

I'm disgusted that he's been given such a silver-platter comeback chance, and more disgusted that his behavior since then hasn't merited him a trip back to the trash can. And I'm really disappointed in Rihanna. Most victims of domestic violence have only so much they can do about it; compared to her, they have limited financial means, limited social circles, and often they can't even muster firm evidence as to what has happened to them because their abusers are more careful than Brown was. Rihanna has the world at her feet and yet here she goes...

Also, CM Punk is NINE KINDS OF AWESOME.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:11 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


people kept buying his albums.

I don't really see much of a problem with people buying albums of music they like. I have plenty of music by artists who have been involved in the drug trade and/or violent crime (I grew up during the emergence of gangster rap) and even domestic violence (I like James Brown and Ike Turner). In some cases I buy music from bands and artists that intentionally glamorize things I don't support. I just like the music, and it is not difficult to me to acknowledge that terrible assholes can make really good music. The problem is with the people who are apparently defending his actions and character rather than just enjoying his terrible music (and his dancing I guess? What's this idiot's appeal anyway?).
posted by Hoopo at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2012


I wish the two of them would cover "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher.
posted by Renoroc at 10:23 AM on February 22, 2012


It's hard to tell if the comments are genuine or if it is a lot of astro-turfing or street-team activity going on, but Jim Carroll from the Irish Times had a post about this the other day and the comments quickly filled up with Chris Brown defenders.
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to err on the side of assuming someone I've never met is capable if making their own decisions. Who knows what has been said in private?

This. And it is not Rihanna's responsibility to be a role model, she is a pop star (who is doing some pretty interesting and envelope-pushing things). People hand-wringing about how it's her responsibility to ditch Brown and never ever forgive him and think about the children should maybe realize this - she is not responsible for raising your children. She is allowed to make her own choices, and people are allowed to give forgiveness and second chances to whomever they choose.
posted by biscotti at 10:36 AM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Charged with felony assault and sentenced to probation... is that how domestic beatings usually pan out for the average joe? How about for the average 1% joe?

It was after the sentencing, but those tweets could have caused quite a storm in court. Lack of remorse, full of wrath and pride? To jail with ye!
posted by Slackermagee at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2012


Having seen close friends go through the hell of being abused, I think I can understand what's going on here. It's not (at least I don't think it is) a contrived cynical attempt to get press. Rather, it is a young woman who through one path or another has convinced herself that her abuser has changed and things can be okay again.

I hope, for her sake, that it ends better and less painful than it has for the women I know who have returned to their abusers over and over.


teleri025, without wishing specific harm on Rihanna, I really can't hope for this.

Right after the incident, she welcomed the abusive fuck back into her life... until a letter from a fan shocked her with the message, "I decided to let my abusive boyfriend back into my life because you did, so it must be the right thing to do..." (more or less the wording). At that point, she woke up and realized that as a celebrity who courted the public's adulation, she had a responsibility to act in ways that were worth imitating. It wasn't about her and Bobby; it was about battered women and their abusers.

She's forgotten that. She's let him back in again (in a real sense, if not as a lover). She's sent the wrong message out to young girls who are victims, again. It won't go well for most of them. I'd rather - making a devil's bargain - that it end badly for her, and her dozens or hundreds of battered fans who can learn the consequences of her mistake do so by proxy, not in person as well.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:49 PM on February 22, 2012


I've been disturbed by some of the approving and/or lustftul things my younger female relatives have posted about Chris Brown on Facebook.

But reading this thread, I'm starting to wonder something: how do we know what Chris Brown has said to Rihanna post-incident? How do we know he's not been apologetic and conciliatory? I don't know what sort of probability to assign to the possibility that his defiant and unapologetic public displays are not exactly lined up with his private feelings and actions. But I'll allow that there is a chance he's been an entirely different person in private and/or in his communication with Rihanna. I won't claim to speak for all black males, but many that I know are almost pathetically afraid of ever appearing to be anything other than the hardest m.f. on the block; if some people feel free to ascribe all kinds of sinister motivations to Brown without speaking to him, I feel empowered to wonder if that's part of what motivates his defiance and refusal to seem or act contrite.

On a lot of Metafilter threads that deal with events and issue that are inextricably tied to gender and sex, there's often a flavor of misandry that enters the comments of people with good intentions, an almost eagerness to point out that when the party responsible for the wrong is a man, he is irredeemably a douchebag who needs to be kicked in the nuts, shunned and never allowed to be near a woman ever again. I'm pretty sure I have seen this even when the man in question has been the opposite of Brown in public forums.

And, as was seen in the Mandingo party thread for example, there is an almost (ironically) patriarchical, no True Scotsman approach to the woman in question: she cannot possibly have made a decision which runs counter to the Feminist Ideal without having been forced to do so.

I'm still not happy with what some of my relatives have written about Brown, and I feel like I need to start a dialogue with some of them about why they feel the way they feel. But I also am starting to question how I can be so certain that Rihanna has not made an informed decision and that Brown hasn't made approaches to her that have suggested that he is in fact sorry.

In conclusion, I'm not defending Brown. But I do think many -- self included -- have been way to quick to condemn him forever and white knight for Rihanna in the absence of more information. It's funny, on some topics, we bean plate things to death. On others, we just skip right past Go and start hurling the thunder.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:20 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


xarnop,

but in general most humans are affected by the climate and beliefs they are surrounded by. It's not regarding one person as weaker than another to acknowledge that all of us as human beings are vulnerable to this kind of influence and that people often over-estimate how much they think "for themselves" vs have found a group of people that shares their views

I absolutely agree with what you are saying, except for the conclusion that this should lead us to refrain from judging Rihanna's (or anyone's) actions. The problem I have with that is that this logic can be used to justify pretty much anything. If you want to get into the metaphysics of it, I personally don't even believe in free will. So, metaphysically speaking, it's not like I think that Rihanna ever had a choice of anything in her life. But this does not stop me from making moral judgements. Ultimately, I think someone is what they are: if you're a scumbag because your parents didn't treat you well, then you're still a scumbag. Everyone has reasons for the things that they do, and their actions usually make a lot of sense from their point of view. But in the end, I still find some things to be unacceptable.

If Chris Brown should be forgiven and trusted by society, and even looked up to by society, why should she not forgive him and give him second chances at rebuilding trust?

But I don't think he should be forgiven or trusted.

Isn't that what our society seems to think is the appropriate response?

Now I'm starting to think you're really agreeing with me by way of sarcastically criticizing society. Because I'm surprised that anyone would think that what society thinks should necessarily be a good standard. Let's just say that I need more than that.
posted by Edgewise at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2012


lord-wolf, maybe he was down on bended knee after throwing chairs through network windows. But then again, he'd be doing it after chair-throwing. Between his tweets, the trashing stuff, including the face of the woman he 'loves,' I can't really see how the objection of misandry sticks.

He may be horribly, horribly, sorry. But that doesn't mean he's not a violent person.

As far as victim-blaming, I wish this didn't get thrown around so quickly here. It makes nuanced discussions of these topics really hard.

I am reminded of the horrible spectacle of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I started watching it out of morbid fascination after the abusive husband commits suicide. What was interesting/really horrible to watch was the abused wife (Taylor Armstrong) whiz around in a denial-fueled breakdown.

There is one encounter between Taylor and the British lady where the British lady tells her that the bullshit with her husband needed to stop. It was a moment that sort of gets at my attitude towards the whole Rhianna/Brown thing. You can say of a person you respect, 'this bullshit needs to stop.'
posted by angrycat at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


He may be horribly, horribly, sorry. But that doesn't mean he's not a violent person.

I agree with you there. I can say that I would forever cease all contact and communication with a woman who had done to me what Brown did to Rihanna. I pray to anything benevolent in this universe that listens to human prayers that my wife and I are raising children who will not tolerate anything like what Brown did from their partners.

But I don't know what Rihanna's parameters are. I don't know what Brown has said or done since that night in private that meets her standards for reconciliation. I think it's unfair to say that if she makes a decision we disagree with that she must still be a victim.

I'm reminded of a thread in which one of MeFi's pet lawyers (I say that lovingly) was chastising MeFites for disagreeing with a judge's or jury's decision and casting all sorts of aspersions on them for letting the accused get away with a crime. The lawyer wrote something to the effect of, "Judge/jury had access to information that you cannot possibly have seen, so where do you get off laying into them like that?" I wanted to respond angrily that "Come on, it's obvious the accused did it, and what on earth could the judge/jury have seen that could possibly indicate otherwise?!" But after thinking, I realized he had a point, and I think something similar applies here.

For what it's worth, I would like to have seen Rihanna avoid Brown in all capacities after that night. And I would like for Chris Brown to be far more remorseful and indicate that he's taking steps to address his anger issues and doing what he can to educate other young men about what they can do to break the cycle of violence in their lives. But I'm less than nothing to both of them, and all I can do in the end is point to them and ask my children not to emulate their behavior.
posted by lord_wolf at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2012


But they're making a public performance of this, in the literal sense. In public, nothing like an adequate apology or reconciliation has taken place.

What is being shown to the public is a man egregiously beating a woman, taking no meaningful responsibility, and (as he has boasted) suffering no lasting consequences to his public image and associated career.
posted by tel3path at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Now I'm starting to think you're really agreeing with me by way of sarcastically criticizing society"

Ha! I think ultimately we are in agreement. I don't believe in free will either but I have come to a more compassionate perspective on this especially considering I'm pretty damaged goods myself. I'm not sure how I could practice compassion for myself and my failings without attempting to extend that compassion to others who have mental illness, faced abusive childhoods, or have been damaged in some way by life.

That said, protecting the innocent is important. In many DV situations the "victim" might carry many faults of their own. It's easy to say that domestice violence is the sin of all sins from which a human may not be forgiven--- but in reality there are many failings that are considered unforgivable. How well can the "victim" take care of themselves? Are they truly self sufficient? Do they have mental health problems? Do they have problems succeeding in school? In relationships are they too dependent and needy because their family could not meet their needs?

If a person is carrying a weight of guilt and failure, then when they get assaulted or treated badly they might want to forgive in attempts to meet the failings of others with the kind of compassion they wish they could be shown. They might also know that they have tried to change who they are, or their ability to function and failed many times and know what it means to be alienated by human beings due to such failures.

I'm sorry if this doesn't make sense, I really don't have answers. I just wish that I knew how to eliminate violence and abuse and poverty and mental illness and suffering. And yes I wish Rihanna had taken a stronger stand against remaining removed from someone who would do that to her. I don't know the reasons why she or anyone else would go back, I can only guess and wish I understood better because I would really like to stop violence from being something the assume has to exist in a society. I feel like--- maybe one day we could figure it out. Why are people violent? I want to understand, I want to fix it.
posted by xarnop at 3:09 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the NPR piece covers this whole situation pretty well, stating we can and will come to our own, separate conclusions about how to respond to this "teachable moment."

With that said, I do think society was looking to Rhianna for an indication of how victimized she felt so the appropriate response could be measured. The controversy is still here because everyone swept the old situation under the rug without directly addressing it or tying up the loose ends. A lot of people feel Chris Brown didn't get his comeuppance (but this is where I argue how difficult it is to deliver justice in even the non-celebrity cases of domestic abuse). People still don't seem sure if Rhianna was legitimately abused, or if this is just some weird, kinky revenge fantasy in-the-making. She may not be championing feminism or issues of domestic abuse, but you have to admit that she's at least making pop music much more visceral than we're used to.

Personally, I'm torn between how beautifully this all exemplifies human nature and how painful it is to see the bad guy get away. But that's how real life works; the hero doesn't always get the girl, and sometimes the bad guy gets away with it.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 3:16 PM on February 22, 2012


It may surprise many to know that I'm all for forgiveness. I totally get your point of view, xarnop, because it's mine.

This dude still comes across as dangerous, so I still wouldn't advocate mixing with him, is all. If he showed a total change of attitude and crawled to China on his hands and knees in penance, then expressed a wish to apologize, maybe one could accept that apology, in the presence of a few bodyguards.

I mean if that ever happened, that might be good. Otherwise, we must all understand that it could be throwing one's life away to keep on trying to "understand" an incompletely repentant abuser in situ.
posted by tel3path at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


xarnop,

My take-away is that you're a more forgiving person than I am. It's not that I think that Chris Brown has committed an unforgivable crime, so much as that I don't think he's done anything to earn (public) forgiveness. I am one of the last ones who expects celebrities to be role models, but there is a certain threshold where I think their public behavior might be expected to cause genuine harm. This is one of those cases, and now I'm sad to say that Rihanna is just as culpable.

It is probably a good thing that you are so forgiving and understanding, and strive so hard to avoid being a hypocrite. But surely there must be a threshold for you, too. I wonder if whatever you did that you feel bad about could have hurt as many people as the actions of these two morons. I seriously doubt it. And if you had done something that bad, based on your evident conscientiousness, I think you would have tried to make amends. I'm all for forgiving people when they truly recognize their mistakes and take steps to correct the damage that they have done. But if anything, this pair is going in the opposite direction.
posted by Edgewise at 4:29 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


"This dude still comes across as dangerous, so I still wouldn't advocate mixing with him, is all."

Well neither forgiveness nor empathy nor compassion should overrule the reality that people tend to repeat these types of behaviors. So no, not even in forgiving a guy like this-- even if he had demonstrated extreme remorse--- would it really make sense to go into a house alone with him, or try to have a romantic relationship with him, or entrust him with children, or give him a work position where he has the power to harm people.

I think, there may be ways for someone who has done such a thing to rebuild their integrity and reliability and to eventually be worthy of trust in society/a relationship. I'm one hundred percent certain nothing about this situation (from the outside) demonstrates any sort of process that should be a societal model for that.

However even in a best case scenario if someone demonstrates they have done something that dangerous, it's... concerning... for any future relationship given that more often than not these things tend to be repeated even after therapy and good intentions.

And if the process is too easy--- beat someone--- say sorry--serve minimal or no sentence-- talk in therapy-- completely forgiven and trusted again; that is a great recipe for enabling horrible abuses to happen repeatedly.
posted by xarnop at 5:59 PM on February 22, 2012


I also want to say, I came off talking a lot about forgiveness but I also think extreme anger is an appropriate response to actions like this. It seems like, part of any reparative process, might be facing some of that justifiable anger with a sense of humility and willingness to make things right.

For some reason I'm thinking that making him listen to some lectures from people he respects that involves language like "You piece of shit, how the fuck dare you" might be helpful for developing an internal sense of right and wrong about how to treat others.

Don't know if that can fit into a compassionate perspective but somehow in my wacky head it seems to fit in there.
posted by xarnop at 6:55 PM on February 22, 2012


Yuck. Fuck Chris Brown.
posted by delmoi at 7:00 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


My favorite part of this thread is the people who think that this 'might' be 'in part' a publicity stunt.
posted by signal at 7:13 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


You seriously think a 24-year-old girl ought to have the mental faculties to go about her life or her career after that without doing some really weird things?

Girl? At 24 she is no longer a girl, she's a woman. She is also a women with considerable means, unlike many victims of domestic violence. I cannot believe that she has anything to do with Chris Brown after he beat the hell out of her, and then has shown that he has violent tendencies, several times since he beat her.

Chris Brown is a scumbag, that is all there is to it. There is no redemption for a man who would beat a woman, then act the way he has. He was barely punished by the justice system, and has been rewarded by the music buying public.

How is it that Chris Brown's music is played all over the place, after what he did, yet when Natalie Maines, of the Dixie Chicks, stated she was ashamed of President Bush being from Texas she was kicked off of the majority of radio? Why are people not demanding that Chris Brown not be all over the airwaves, and on the frigging Grammy awards?

I was done with his music as soon as he hit Rihanna. I am now done with her's as she most definitely could speak out if she was against him being on her music. Even if she doesn't have final say, she damn sure could tweet, or just say, that it isn't right. Instead she is allowing a man who abused her to be part of her music. She is showing young girls, and regardless of whether she wants to be a role model she is, that it is okay to let a man hit you. She is showing other young women that a man can send you to the hospital and it is alright to let him back into your life.



Chris Brown has stated in the past that his Mother was a victim of domestic violence, that he saw his Mom beaten by a man. He then repeated the cycle. He knew what it would do to Rihanna, he saw what it did to his Mom, and did it any damn way. Again, he's scum and doesn't belong on the radio.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:20 AM on February 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was done with his music as soon as he hit Rihanna. I am now done with her's as she most definitely could speak out if she was against him being on her music. Even if she doesn't have final say, she damn sure could tweet, or just say, that it isn't right. Instead she is allowing a man who abused her to be part of her music. She is showing young girls, and regardless of whether she wants to be a role model she is, that it is okay to let a man hit you. She is showing other young women that a man can send you to the hospital and it is alright to let him back into your life.

I'm uncomfortable with this comment because it seems like an alternative form of victim blaming. A woman has a horrific thing happen to her and when her behavior following that event does not meet the ideal expectations complete strangers have set forth for her, she gets shunned too.
posted by The Gooch at 8:42 AM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


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