Chris Brown will soon be on TV to remind us that, in America, men who beat women can not only become successful beyond most of our wildest dreams — they can command respect from our venerable award-giving institutions, too. The former teenage R&B idol is performing at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards — the Grammys, you will recall, was the site of Brown’s stunning downfall. He’s admitted to beating his then-girlfriend Rihanna after a party before the 2009 ceremony, which led both stars to pull out of the event.
Brown is currently serving five years probation for the felony assault. His most recent album, the cheekily titled F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies) (Chris Brown is just like Jesus, you guys!), is up for three Grammys. Rihanna, who’s vying for four awards, is also set to perform at the event. If some sort of tearful “Stand By Your Man” moment happens, hey, everybody is entitled to do what it takes to find happiness, but this is a nationally televised pseudo-event where people are basically trying to sell us records, so we think we’re allowed to vomit up however many bottles of wine we’ve consumed by that point in the broadcast.
As with the age-old, tedious debates over the alleged extracurricular behaviors of Michael Jackson and R. Kelly — who, let the record show, never admitted anything — when you judge on the basis of music alone, it’s tough to deny Brown’s recent success, particularly Grammy-nominated “Look at Me Now.” Still, that killer track is memorable more for its catchy Afrojack-Diplo car-alarm production and spitfire Busta Rhymes guest verse than for anything involving Brown, so there’s something off-putting about being asked to celebrate the person rather than the Rolodex. That’s never been more apparent than during Brown’s Kanye West-approved, Jay-Z-snubbed high-wire dance routine at last summer’s MTV Video Music Awards.
Last night, Grammy organizers officially announced a far less controversial pair of performers: Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood, who will be collaborating. Other acts set to team up on the big night are Rihanna with Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson with Jason Aldean, and Glen Campbell with Blake Shelton and the Band Perry. Paul McCartney, Adele, Foo Fighters, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Bruno Mars are scheduled to perform at the event, as well. Latin jazz musicians, whose category was cut from the awards this year, will be performing elsewhere in protest. Perhaps some of the show’s other female nominees will consider doing the same.