After releasing two collaborations last week, Chris Brown and Rihanna are back in the headlines, and back to confusing their fans.
Given the sexually suggestive lyrics of “Birthday Cake” these two weren’t too worried about sending the wrong message. “Girl I wanna f*%$ you right now (right now)/Been a long time, I’ve been missing your body/Let me-let me turn the lights down/ When I go down it’s a private party…”
My disappointment falls squarely in Rihanna’s court. Up until now, I’ve given Chris a hard time, feeling like he wasn’t remorseful enough. Thinking that his expectations of forgiveness were too presumptive; that he seemed to feel a bit too entitled for someone who almost killed one of my other favorite artists. The music, of course, has remained strong throughout the turmoil, and his album, F.A.M.E., was easily one of the best of 2011.
But now, my attention is shifted to Rihanna. She’s a rock star. She’s the victim. She’s the one holding all the cards. It’s no wonder that Chris has been less than concerned about receiving forgiveness from the public; when he has clearly already received it from the one who matters most. She gave him a pass. She said it was OK. That he should be successful and popular and celebrated, even after he almost killed her…even after he tore up a dressing room at Good Morning America…even after he allegedly tore a phone away from a female fan that snapped a picture, just last week…we’re not supposed to care about any of that, because she doesn’t.
Rihanna has gone on record that she is not a role model. She has stated, repeatedly, that she resents the responsibility thrust on young stars to be social trendsetters. Here’s the thing; they are. Rihanna knew that when she signed up for fame. She utilized it when influential hits like “Umbrella” spawned thousands of “Rihanna haircuts” and helped her sell out stadiums. Only when its inconvenient does she resent all the hype, all the eyes and all the influence.
I will concede that, despite my personal opinions about domestic violence, it’s ultimately a deeply private matter. The way in which a battered woman is able to piece her life back together is her business. Despite the fame, Robyn Fenty is a private citizen. What she does behind closed doors and with whom is none of my business.
Rihanna, however, is a public figure and her music is absolutely my business. The messages she sends in her music are absolutely her fans’ business. She brought her private business into her music business, and now she is asking us to pay for it. She’s asking us to consume material that accepts violence. She’s giving power to the legions of misguided girls wearing T-shirts saying, “You Can Beat Me Up”.
She’s trying to turn us on with the visual of her in bed with Chris. Unfortunately, the only visual in my mind is that swollen faced, black-eyed girl with bite marks on her arms and finger impressions across her throat.
They remember too. The young fans who think Rihanna is the strongest, most beautiful, most confident woman they have ever seen. They remember what she went through, and they’re watching her say it’s “not that serious.” If the man is cute enough, or talented enough, or sexy enough when he “blows out your candles” it’s worth being slapped around a little. If it’s good enough for Rihanna, it’s good enough for them. That’s the crime in the release of these singles. That’s the crime of these two famous young adults.
The one and only collaboration that should have ever seen the light of day is a public service announcement on the gravity of domestic violence. Short of that, I’m not buying a thing these two are selling. How about you?