By Caroline Meister
To be honest, Chris Brown wasn’t on my radar until my mom showed me the classic YouTube hit, “The Wedding Entrance Dance.” I’m sure you remember it: members of a wedding party comically dance down the church aisles to “Forever” (One of Chris Brown’s biggest hits), much to the surprise of the bride and groom. This YouTube video was later parodied in “The Office,” adding to the overall exposure of the song. It was even was one of the first songs I downloaded on my iPod Nano. My mom and I used to listen to it all the time. One day, she remarked that it was a shame that this would be one of the last hits he would ever have.
She was, of course, referring to the infamous night when Chris and his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, got into an argument that escalated to physical violence, leaving Rihanna with bruises so bad she had to be hospitalized. A few months later, Chris Brown was charged with felony assault and making criminal threats, receiving five years of probation. A huge backlash occurred in the general media afterwards, with many organizations and individuals demanding he receive more punishment. Sadly enough, it is an issue that is still present today (see Brock Turner). Regardless of whether his punishment was just or not, Chris’ career was done for, right? He was pulled from many sponsorships, some radio stations would not play his music, and he was forced to cancel his 2009 Grammy performance.
Ironically enough, his lawyer has claimed that the incident had little to no effect on his success. The sad part? He was right. Since the incident, Chris Brown has released four studio albums, all but one of those having gone platinum in the United States. He has continued to tour internationally (three tours to be exact), despite being denied access to Australia and the United Kingdom. He also frequently appears on-screen, whether it be in films (Battle of the Year) or TV (mostly recently, Tosh.0). His net worth is estimated to be about 30 million, and yet he continues to this day to go in and out of the judicial system, most recently refusing to allow the police to enter his Los Angeles mansion, which resulted in a police standoff.
One of the most notable differences in his career after the battery is that he shifted from almost straight R&B (his first three albums) to nearly straight hip-hop. An increase in the use of explicit content can also be noted after the release of his 2009 album, Graffiti. Such songs as “Look At Me Now” and “Yeah 3x” achieved massive success, both landing spots on the top ten charts for weeks. Was this intentional, a switch of genre to fit his new “bad boy” persona?
There is no confirmation on this, but one can assume that Brown’s new crisis director suggested the switch, a smart move considering the trend has continued with Brown. It is truly incredible to me that this man can still make money and have a fairly successful career despite his obvious lack of respect for women. Perhaps even more astounding is the fact that Chris’ own mother was a victim of domestic abuse; he has even admitted to being terrified of his mother’s boyfriend because he would hit her at least once a day. I’m not sure if I should be impressed with Chris Brown for his perseverance and ability to rebrand himself, or if I should be disgusted at the music industry and its consumers (including myself) for allowing him to continue to have a livelihood.