The Double Standard Edition.
In a contemporary world where a slew of viral images make the rounds daily, one appears more heart-warming than the rest. Many of y’all will have seen the image I refer to; a screen-cap of a scathing review by Chris Havercroft of Chris Brown’s latest offering which states “the man recently brutally assaulted a girlfriend and is still regularly invited back to award shows and is worshipped by ‘Breezy’ fans worldwide,” before concluding “final words: don’t buy the album. NO STARS EVER.” Hear-fucking-hear.
While I certainly find the sentiments of the review laudable, there’s something problematic about this that niggles me.There’s the pin- pointing of Chris Brown at the exclusion of a culture that is complicit—if not supportive—of his doings.The Grammy’s, for example, happily invited him back to perform this year. In the immediate aftermath of the brutal assault, to speak ill of Chris Brown as a celebrity was a kind of anathema, with insistence placed on ‘not knowing the full story’ or ‘it’s complicated’.
Mostly, however, I think that ragging on Chris Brown is too fucking easy. R’n’B is an oft-maligned genre and Chris Brown is an oft- maligned musician to match. Few consider his output artistic, or acute, or anything else that would qualify it as a work of genius. Indictments of the shoddy quality of his music are unlikely to meet much dissension. So to that end, before you show me a negative review of Chris Brown:
Show me a review of Nico (of ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’ fame) that insists Nico was an appalling racist who once callously stabbed a Black woman in the eye after shouting ‘I hate black people’, NO STARS EVER. Show me a review of The Piano that says ‘Roman Polanski is a convicted rapist who thought himself above serving time for his crime, NO OSCARS EVER’. Show me a review of a feature film staring Sean Penn that says ‘Penn assaulted Madonna with a baseball bat so severely that the incident left her hospitalised, NO MORE HOLLYWOOD OPPORTUNTIES EVER’.
It seems that when it comes to anything that falls under the ‘art’ umbrella, we have no compunction in either (a) separating the creator from their art if and when we see fit or (b) condoning the creator’s deeds because of their art. Chris Brown the person and Chris Brown the musician are part and parcel. I suspect that race has a factor in this too; there is a trend of Black artists being vilified while white counter- parts are vindicated. No-one is going to lose any sleep over deleting Chris Brown’s oeuvre from their iTunes, but people may be somewhat more conflicted in deleting Sgt. Pepper’s, regardless of the documented fact that John Lennon would go home from recording sessions and mercilessly beat his wife.To those who seem baffled as to why Chris Brown has retained such a loyal and devoted fan-base willing to let him off the hook so easily: you, and I, do the exact same thing too.
Calling out Chris Brown is gleefully satisfying but ultimately useless.We need to attack and deconstruct the canonized works, works that are revered as high art, works that have unimpeachable standings.We need to critique art that we like, artists that we admire, adore, revere, and call them out on their bullshit. As it is, we’re just shooting fish in a barrel, challenging nothing and going nowhere.
Oh yeah! Chris Brown has a new album out. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s predictably abysmal; and as this article going to press he remains as unrepentant and smug as ever. Fuck you dude. Don’t buy the album; NO STARS EVER. ▲