Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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I Sez: What the Hell, Chris Brown

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 11, 2009


I missed the Grammys this year, unfortunately–I guess I don’t watch any channels that would be advertising for it, and no one cares enough about it for it to be a subject of anticipatory conversation. From the list of winners, it seems like it would’ve been typically underwhelming, since as I semi-predicted/feared, the cadre of impressively modern nominees for most of the top categories were completely upended by a near-sweep for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (though kudos to our #69 PC of the year, Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire,” for nabbing one of the token rock statues). From what I can tell, though, two notable occurrences did take place at the awards, though. Blink-182 reformed (hopefully less temporarily than the Van Halen reunion at the ’96 VMAs) to present an award, claiming to be making music together once more. This was a good thing. And Chris Brown failed to show up for his performance, as he was busy getting arrested for beating the shit out of girlfriend Rihanna. This was a bad thing.

Not that domestic abuse is ever particularly commendable, of course, but I felt about as bad about this news as I can about an altercation between two people I don’t know, will never meet and have basically nothing in common with. Allegedly, this was no minor incident either, as Rihanna, initially an unidentified victim in the skirmish, her wounds wer described by police as “horrific,” including swelling and bruising on her arms, bloody lips, and, uh, bite marks. At first reluctant to co-operate with the police in their investigation (Cam’Ron would be so proud), Rihanna appears to have now ceded her assistance after all, as Brown looks to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Yikes.

How did this happen? As far as pop stars go, I would have rated the likelihood of Chris Brown turning up in such a violent domestic abuse case as slightly higher than Bow Wow and slightly lower than Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Once again, not like I really know anything about the guy, but…I mean, Chris Brown? The triple-threat wunderkind of “Yo (Excuse Me Miss),” “With You” and “Forever”? What clues exactly would you say were apparent in his songs, videos or Doublemint commercials that might lead to his future career as a pummeller, deadly-weapon-assaulter, and biter of female companions? Fer chrissakes, the guy’s still only 19! I mean, I know the transition from child to adult star takes a variety of different tolls on people–even Haley Joel Osment has put at least one DUI on the board–but this seems a little much.

The hurt to pop music will undoubtedly be great. Brown’s extremely promising career will be tarnished, possibly irreperably, and people might never look at Rihanna quite the same way again either (although thanks to Tina Turner, coming back from spousal abuse in a position of power is at least highly precedented). But what really kills me is that it had been so long–since Britney and Justin at the beginning of the millennium, I think–since pop music had such a respectable up-and-coming power couple. There’s still Beyonce and Jay-Z, of course, but both having already reached the highest highs their careers are likely to have produced, they’ve more or less settled into elder statesmen status. With Chris and Rihanna appearing to still be on the ascent, it would’ve been nice to get to see them really come of age together, maybe even working in a trademark duet or co-starring in a vanity pic together along the way. Now, I guess we just have to hold out hope that Ne-Yo and Lady GaGa hit it off at the Teen Choice Awards or something.

Who would’ve guessed that “Take a Bow” would ever go on to take such weighty relevance?

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