Despite his highly publicized violent actions in recent years, Chris Brown has done quite well for himself. Since being charged with assault and making threats toward then-girlfriend Rihanna, he’s released two albums that have sold combined over a million copies, had 16 Top 40 hits and won his first Grammy award. But he’s also had violent episodes with Drake, Frank Ocean and while being interviewed on Good Morning America, plus an alleged hit-and-run recently. So while it might not be a surprise that he’s headlining this year’s Summer Rush put on by Energy 103.5 in Dartmouth, it’s also no surprise that the reaction has been less than positive.
Before going any further, it’s important to note that whether one likes him and his music or not is beside the point and should have no baring on the situation at hand. Drop Entertainment, the company who selected him as a headliner, obviously believed he could be a big enough draw to invest in him so let’s not let our opinion of him (musically) cloud the situation.
Since the announcement on Friday, main sponsor Rogers pulled out, followed by several others. Even the mayor chimed in saying it’s unfortunate Brown was selected as a headliner for a concert in HRM. There has been a lot of talk, a lot of news coverage over the reaction and a petition with over 10,000 signatures demanding he stay away.
Those in Chris’ defence say “he made a mistake”, “If Rihanna has forgiven him, so should we” and “everyone needs to get over it”. What he’s done was a pretty big mistake to make and one that he and others like him should be made to remember. He has also had other cases where his lack of control resulted in more trouble since, plus his occasional outbursts on social media. I think the outrage of his headlining status is justified, and whether he’s been forgiven by his victims and has gotten help for his actions, he still went much further than most reasonable people would have. As a public figure, image is the the most important thing you have and it goes beyond the music you make and the performances you do. He failed in that respect and the consequence is the reaction that comes with concert appearances like this. In my opinion, he deserves the negative press.
But what if instead of Chris Brown, the headliner was someone who was highly respected for their craft while also having a violent past? Would the response be the same?
James Brown (photo from Rolling Stone)
As was pointed out on social media and article comments, Halifax has welcomed past “criminals” like James Brown, who was arrested four times for domestic abuse in the late 80s and early 90s. He performed in Halifax in 2004 to little protest, if any. Guns ‘N Roses lead singer Axl Rose was accused of ongoing abuse by his then-wife in the early 90s, which he settled out of court to the sum of $1 million. He and the band played Halifax several times over the years, including most recently in 2010.
So why is Chris Brown being targeted? I think it’s because of his musical status and that it’s easier to protest pop music over other genres. That, to me, suggests that it is “acceptable” for a respected rock ‘n roll icon or a soul legend to be violent toward women because they’ve earned their status as artists. They are more legitimate as musicians and their target demographic is seen as being more credible. While I agree that Chris’ demographic, which consists of mostly younger listeners, are the ones who probably need to be educated the most about violence toward women, I feel that trying to get this concert cancelled does little good in doing that. It’s likely that most of the people who are outraged had no intention of going to whoever would have headlined Energy Rush (last year’s headliner was Pitbull and previous ones have included Nelly and Jesse McCartney – all pop stars and all easy to hate) and by trying to cancel it, they’re aliening the people that do want to go, thus losing the message they are trying to get across.
If the goal of those protesting is to prevent Chris Brown from performing, is it because we believe he personally doesn’t deserve the glory he would get, or is it because violence toward women shouldn’t be rewarded? You can do the former and have “the fans” angry at those responsible for his cancellation, and the message. Or you could do the latter and ensure everyone knows what the issue is; let him entertain, but don’t let him or his people think we have forgotten. Yeah, he’ll get paid for the gig but this is an opportunity to create discussion and bring much-needed awareness.
It’s fair that there is outrage over Chris Brown being brought here and it was a poor decision on the part of the promotions company. I think the outrage is a good thing but I don’t think the point of it should be to necessarily have the performance cancelled. Sometimes the goal of a situation like this is to simply create dialogue and discussion that further draws attention to the important topic of combating violence against women. And of course, we can always vote with our wallets.