"Everyone sees it's you. I'm the one who lost the view. Everybody says we're through. I hope you haven't said it too." -Chris Brown, "Crawl"
Chris Brown is singing a new song. Specifically, that tune is "Crawl." Coming out with his new CD "Graffiti" in December, the woebegone single of love clearly lost showcases Brown stepping back into his Boy Next Door shoes with almost innocent wistfulness.
In turn, my skin is crawling.
Though the holiday season is approaching, I haven't forgotten how horrific Rihanna appeared following her beating from Chris Brown this past February. And thanks to the ensuing media firestorm, I no longer see Brown as an amazing, dancing wunderkind; while he can probably still blow the world away with what he can do with his feet, I will always remember what he can do with his hands.
Thankfully, I don't know how it feels to be physically battered by an intimate partner. But, as a consumer with a pinch of conscience, I am not willing to buy a ballad from a batterer. Just as I would have run screaming from "Please Don't Go Girl" had any of the now-old New Kids on the Block been involved in hideous domestic disputes, I don't want to see Chris Brown packaged as the cute boy next door underneath my Christmas tree.
I am also pretty sure that Rihanna herself doesn't deserve any such present.
But, time has passed since that beating, and Chris Brown's handlers have worked to restore some polish to his tarnished image. With his musical mea culpa scheduled for December release, Brown is set to take a commercial test that will determine his future an entertainer.
Will his record sell?
Has the public forgiven him?
Should "Crawl" attain some commercial success, it may not just be because of a ringtone company dying to pollute cell phones everywhere with more jingles, but due to loyal fans left in Brown's base. Or, it may even from the fact that the immense goodwill following Jill and Kevin's "Forever" wedding dance video has lingered past the summer up to now (see Jim and Pam's wedding on "The Office"). Thanks to those circumstances, Brown has a chance for an opening hit single and a modest-selling record.
I, however, am no such fan.
Even if Chris Brown's publicists go on to insist that the public still loves him, I believe Brown largely owes whatever good regard he has to Rihanna's diplomacy and Jill and Kevin's wedding video. If the infamous clip hadn't come out, I most likely would not listen to any of Chris Brown's music. It's thanks to their sheer joy and love that I enjoy Brown's song. Other than that, not so much.
Plus, as of now (and for quite some time) it is far too unsuitable to cast Chris Brown in the role of a romantic lead. Maybe it's because I've never forgiven any guy who's threatened to lay a hand on me or any other girl, but watching Brown in the role of a courting prince makes me feel like I need to be holding a can of Mace behind my back. Some of his advocates argue that because of his relatively young age, he should be given a pass, but I disagree. No matter what, he should have unballed his fist instead of releasing it on Rihanna, and he chose not to stop himself.
Thus, I don't believe Chris Brown is entitled to commercial approval and forgiveness just yet. While he's made numerous entreaties to the collective public, his words don't seem to reflect the magnitude of the sexual violence he's committed. As a recording artist, he seems far more terrified of losing his career than in becoming a credible figure of genuine remorse. And as a young man, the prospect of having to start over with a real job in this economy is probably even more frightening.
So, I have a proposal. Since Brown is concerned about his career, he should take pains to atone for his past actions and earn public goodwill all over again. If he truly desires to be a socially acceptable enough for his music to be played during the slow moments of school dances- the type of love he packages his musical identity in- then he needs to take actions that would make a substantial world of difference to all women who have been threatened, abused, raped, and battered.
How can he pull this all off?
First, he should publicly dedicate a significant percentage of his single's profit to domestic abuse. Should he put his money where his mouth is, then he would credibly address his naysayers. I would be inclined to look at him as a remorseful human being instead of a fledgling terrified of losing red carpet photo opportunities or free bling.
Second, he needs to devote his time to women's shelters. He doesn't need to suddenly volunteer to be their go-to gopher, but spending substantial amounts of time with women's groups (or raising funds for them) would entitle him to actually claim remorse, and hopefully even give him some sort of moral backbone.
Finally, he needs to enter therapy and stay in it. As a product of a household where his mother endured domestic abuse, there is no way Brown should have ever perpetuated it. He needs to get a grip on his anger before he exercises it on another unfortunate young woman ever again.
Of course, I am only one person in a sea of millions; my words alone can't sway Chris Brown into doing more than just contributing apologetic sound bites and staying fifty yards away from Rihanna. But, if I see him take some mature steps to rectify his past, I may just consider actually listening to his record.
But, without proper atonement following his words, Chris Brown can crawl back to the obscurity he came from. The world is already far too full of successful physical batterers, and Brown does not need to remain part of their ranks.
ABOUT ALEX B
An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.
I agree with you, Alex, atonement is the only path for him.
11.18.09 @ 11:25a
Absolutely. And not a sound bite that'll elicit sympathy murmurs from gullible talk show hosts, but a substantial effort. Fundraising efforts, performing at events that combat domestic violence, or donating a portion of his proceeds to women's shelters.
The disturbing thing about him is that he's gone ahead and recast himself in his old PG-13 Nickelodeon-friendly image- one that's designed to appeal to tweens and teens. After how severely he beat Rihanna, I have difficulty making a distinction between him and Ike Turner, and find it slightly appalling that he still has a career. Maybe there are degrees of battery, but none of them should be available to kids in record stores. Nor should they be singing puppy love songs.
In sympathy to Brown, I think he's grown up where he- in fact- didn't know better, and unfortunately, he is a product of a fairly crappy environment where domestic abuse was okay. But I wish he would man up enough to not perpetuate what he grew up with and take an open stance.
11.20.09 @ 11:44a
All your atonement suggestions are spot on. Too bad he and his PR people won't understand.
11.20.09 @ 5:05p
Tracey, I think Chris Brown and his handlers are also more inclined to treat Rihanna's beating as something to sweep under a rug, and don't understand how serious it is. Brown is probably extremely contrite, but that isn't going to help him grow up, grow on, and be a better man.
If I saw Chris Brown do more for domestic violence and his own character, I wouldn't begrudge him continuing to sing and dance. But as he has not, I just find it creepy that he's still going about singing love songs and is as squeaky clean as before.