After Chris Brown brutally assaulted Rihanna in 2009, the press thoroughly examined the deeply ingrained psychological reasons that battered women so often return to their abusive relationships. Sometimes the public forgives and forgets. But Chris Brown has done an astoundingly impressive job of reminding everyone he’s an out of control rage-a-holic with poor judgement. So does Rihanna realize what a potentially catastrophic decision it would be professionally, let alone personally, if she collaborates with her ex as speculated? UPDATE: Well, it happened — and not on one, but two songs. Hear the “Birthday Cake” and “Turn Up the Music” remixes here.
First, here’s a bit of background. Hip-hop blog Miss Info has reported, and Billboard has picked up, that “two independent sources” say Brown will appear on a remix of Rihanna’s Talk That Talk strip-club slinker “Birthday Cake.” Previously, Da Internz, who co-produced the song with The-Dream, told MTV the guest on the “Birthday Cake” remix “is gonna shock the world.” Of course, it’s hard to think of a more shocking name in a Rihanna “featuring” tag than the ex-boyfriend currently serving probation for a felony assault on the pop star the night before the 2009 Grammy Awards. And given that Brown, as the Washington Post wonderfully observed, managed to nab more airtime at this year’s Grammys than the late Whitney Houston, it’s clear the industry wants to keep trolling us with this dancing-mutant man-child at every turn.
All of which adds up to the horrifying possibility Chris Brown might actually be on Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake” remix.
Then again, he might not be. Online hip-hop radio station Def Pen, for one, has reported that Brown will not be on the track, citing no less an authority than co-producers Da Internz themselves. But dig a little deeper, and we really won’t know for sure until the remix comes out. A Rihanna fan forum reportedly tweeted at the producers, “Please just say the WOW collaborator is NOT that felony assault guy!!” To which Da Internz replied, “Nope.” Wait, are they saying, “Nope, Brown isn’t the collaborator”? Or are they saying, “Nope, we can’t say that”?
Who cares? Whether or not Brown appears on the actual track, Rihanna is harming her image more than she might think by even flirting with the possibility. A wide range of music royalty hit Twitter on Grammy night to complain about the mercurial R&B star, whose swiftly deleted “FUCK OFF” replies that night appear to indicate he is still too immature to give any post-pubescent pop fan much reason to forgive him. As far as the public can tell, Rihanna’s mentor Jay-Z has not forgiven him. In other words, with the exception of a fanatical Team Breezy following and a handful of celebs, everybody with clout hates Chris. But Rihanna is different. She’s loved! She collaborates with the polite-to-a-fault likes of Coldplay! She racks up hit after hit! She has something to lose.
Brown is 22. Rihanna turns 24 on February 20. That might not be so young in terms of the pop charts, but it’s certainly an age when it might be hard to see that doing something like acting friendly with your abusive, loutish ex at an early birthday celebration this past weekend — as Miss Info reports Rihanna did — is not exactly the smartest career move. Live your life, as a wise woman once sang. But don’t squander the love of an adoring public, which is centered on Rihanna now, but could just as easily find another pop darling if every mention of this one’s name conjures up visions of a violent jerk. Remember Britney’s years in the wilderness, just because she shaved her head and went to fast-food restaurants without shoes on? The quality of the music was as high as ever (Blackout, everyone!), but the public wasn’t buying. People are fickle, and so is the music industry. Be careful out there, RiRi. You’re a career woman.
And now, because we can, here’s a little relationship advice from Whitney, mashed up with Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.”