When I first heard the rumors of Rihanna collaborating with her ex-boyfriend/abuser Chris Brown on a remix of her song "Birthday Cake," I thought it was merely sensational journalism at its worst. Such a ruckus had been made--and deservedly so--about Chris Brown performing at the Grammys just three years after he sent his then-girlfriend Rihanna to the hospital on the eve of that year's ceremony, the collaboration rumor sounded like people adding fuel to the fire. There's no way Rihanna, one of the biggest popstars on the planet, would be stupid enough to reunite with her abuser on a single...right? While I was moderately assured it was all a rumor, what worried me was the fact that no one from the Rihanna camp was denying it. I mean, I'm no marketing specialist, but if a major rumor that your client's next single was going to feature her abuser on it was started, wouldn't you want to squash that shit if it was a big lie? That seems like common sense to me (which is saying something because my dad is always going on and on about how I lack common sense).
Turns out they didn't deny the rumor because it was true. On Monday night of this past week, we heard for ourselves the "Birthday Cake" remix, sung by Rihanna and featuring Chris Brown. Was I surprised? No, not really. The rumors had been around since the Grammys the previous weekend and possibly even before. Was I offended? You know it. I was so hurt and outraged I couldn't even listen to the whole thing. Unfortunately, I didn't stop before "Breezy" dropped this humdinger of a line: "Girl, I wanna fuck you right now/Been a long time, I been missing your bod."
Listen, I am totally on board with Rihanna forgiving Chris Brown for what happened. Oprah always says that until you forgive and let go your abusers, they will always control you. And contrary to what you would assume given my general opinion about his actions, I believe that Chris Brown should be forgiven for what he did. My problem is that he has never done or said anything remotely deserving of being accepted in public again. Instead of behaving like a rational adult, he acts like a spoiled fucking child every time someone mentions the assault. "Why can't they leave me alone and move on? That happened years ago!" is always his mid-tantrum Twitter update whenever someone brings this up in public. If he was truly sorry, he would take responsibility for his actions and apologize profusely. Maybe then people would start to move on.
What truly bothers me about this collaboration is that Rihanna is essentially giving the middle finger to every fan who defended her in the years since the assault when Team Breezy said she probably deserved the beating and Usher had to apologize when he (vaguely) defended Rihanna, the abuse victim, in the press. What have we earned with our years of loyalty? A terrible remix featuring the last artist on the planet we would ever want her to be associated with again. I have no idea who came up with this remix, but what record company on the planet would ever think this was a good idea? Sure, this may get people talking and probably sell a few more copies than if she had added Pitbull. But at what cost? Are they trying to win back the Chris Brown fans? The same ones who called her a bitch and a cunt and who openly wonder why she went to the police after the assault because they would love to have Chris Brown beat them? I understand that the record business is a cruel and heartless one and they will do anything to sell a couple more records. There's a difference, however, though between this and releasing an unnecessary remix of Katy Perry's latest single to get it to #1.
The reason I felt the need to write this all down is because I have been a big Rihanna fan for years. Rated R, written and recorded in the aftermath of the Brown assault, is the second best album of the past decade. And the songs speak for themselves: "Umbrella," "Disturbia," "Hard," "Fire Bomb," "Don't Stop the Music," "Only Girl (In the World)," "We Found Love," "Fading," etc. All those years of love and respect and admiration and it's all gone in under three minutes. No, I'm not going to burn her albums or stop listening to her music, nor will I ignore any new, non-Chris Brown music in the future. If she has good music I'm going to listen to it, it's as simple as that. But gone is any respect I once had for her, as an artist, as a role model and as a woman. I'm also done wasting my breath about Chris Brown and the fact that not only is he still famous but he appears to be more popular than ever. Why bother if even her abuse victim is willing to support his career? And especially if any criticism toward her will be met with "Fuck da hatas"? Rihanna, I sincerely hope you enjoy the extra money and notoriety you gain from this remix, because, at the end of the day, you have just alienated your core fanbase.