Look, there’s no reason for me to waste a lot of breath condemning Chris Brown, who will be performing Tuesday at uptown’s Spectrum Center.
He’s displayed reprehensible behavior for years now – starting in 2009, when he was convicted of assault after battering then-girlfriend Rihanna’s face so badly that she ended up in the hospital – and he’s displayed it with such disturbing frequency that when a “Chris Brown did something bad” headline pops into our news feed, we shrug and go, What else is new?
As a result, writers like myself have already judged, dissed and dismissed the 27-year-old hip-hop and R&B star a million times. If I were to add to the pile, it’d be like throwing a lit match onto a four-alarm house fire.
Instead, let me tell you the reasons why I’m eager – as a reporter – to be among those in the crowd when Brown steps on stage in Charlotte next week.
1. I want to see if he actually shows up. In 2015, the singer postponed a performance scheduled for Time Warner Cable Arena (and other shows) after a judge blocked him from leaving California because he still needed to complete roughly 100 hours of community service tied to his felony conviction for assaulting Rihanna. He made good on his makeup date that March, but made no mention of the postponement or his legal troubles, and didn’t apologize.
2. I want to see if any of his opening acts actually show up. Brown tweeted the day before this new tour was announced that French Montana would be on the bill – which was surprising because 50 Cent was also on it, and those two rappers have a contentious history. But when the tour was officially announced, French Montana’s name was absent. And this may be news to some ticketholders: It was reported this week that 50 Cent has now withdrawn from the tour, without explanation. The “In Da Club” rapper is a big enough name that almost certainly some fans bought tickets more specifically to see him than Brown, but guess what? No refunds, as the fine print when you purchased said that opening acts are subject to change. Fabolous, O.T. Genasis and Kap G are still on the undercard, but apparently no one is a sure thing.
3. I want to see if fans show up. Could they be growing weary of Brown’s (offstage) act? This is a brand-new tour – it kicks off Friday in Baltimore – so we don’t yet have a full picture of how it’s selling around the country, but we know his legal woes continue: He has apparently instructed his lawyers to refuse service of the restraining order filed last month by ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran, who alleges that he punched her in the stomach, pushed her down a flight of stairs and threatened to kill her during their relationship. You shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that there’s as much love out there for Brown as there is hate; otherwise he wouldn’t still be able to book arenas like Spectrum. Both sentiments are encapsulated succinctly in these dueling tweets:
4. I want to see what the fans who do show up have to say for themselves. After we published news of Brown’s concert last month, an angry reader took me to task for helping to promote “a known and habitual abuser of women,” but also posited: “Where are the feminists of this town demanding the show be canceled?” I suspect, based on combing through pages and pages of social media chatter, that the majority of Tuesday night’s audience will be female. Will they have mixed feelings about having handed their money over to the singer? Or will they not have even given his checkered past a second thought until I ask about it? We’ll see.
As you may know, Brown made a guest appearance Wednesday night on ABC’s family-friendly sitcom “Black-ish,” and the Internet got angry. The role amounted to a cameo: He played a rapper named Rich Youngsta who was tasked with helping the show’s main character (an advertising executive, played by comedian Anthony Anderson) come up with a new ad campaign for a sparkling beverage called Uvo. The result is a slogan – “put some Uvo on it” – and a commercial in which the drink instantly makes anything “better.”
In a brilliant piece for The Root that dissects the decision to cast Brown on “Black-ish,” Jenn M. Jackson wrote: “To empower Brown with a guest-starring opportunity on such a prominent black show – which, mind you, employs black female activists who have repeatedly spoken out on issues that women of color face in entertainment – seems counterintuitive and disrespectful to viewers who hold the show in high esteem.
“No matter what the intention, this casting choice reeks of enabling. It provides a blank check for a clearly ill person to continue to inflict harm on himself and those around him. Meanwhile, it sends the message that virtually any behavior is easily forgiven when ratings are at stake.”
And she posed the question that’s been posed a thousand times before, one that society seems to have noodled on for a long time without coming to a consensus: Do you value artistic expression over an individual’s personal behavior?
Can you think Bill Cosby raped women but sit down and laugh through an episode of “The Cosby Show”? Can you believe Casey Affleck sexually harassed women but sit down and cry through “Manchester by the Sea”? And, more to the point, can you accept the fact that Chris Brown has been convicted of beating up a woman but throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care at his concerts?
If so, I guess I’ll be seeing you on Tuesday night.