I officially hate the Grammys.
I haven’t always felt this way, but the Internet just makes it seem like I have.
This year’s gathering was particularly abhorrent, however, because of the Recording Academy‘s two-armed embrace of notorious enfant terrible Chris Brown. And by “enfant terrible,” I mean “sentenced domestic abuser.”
See, I have this problem that apparently a lot of women have: a short memory for compliments and a long memory for incidents of violence, whether they happened to me, my friends or famous pop stars.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that he received a golden gramophone Sunday night, Brown also performed not once, but twice, during the ceremony. So, just so we’re clear: best hard rock/metal performance and best comedy album awards aren’t good enough to be televised, but a man currently on probation for savagely beating his former (or possibly current) girlfriend, as she looks on, is exactly what the Recording Academy wants to beam into America’s homes during primetime in a sweeps month on the nation’s most-watched broadcast network. Good to know.
In case you’re keeping score at home, Rihanna: one performance. Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston: one shot on stage. But C Breezy got two chances to put his rhythmic rage on display. The Grammys literally doubled down on domestic violence.
I’ve ranted about Brown and his misguidedly passionate fans in the past, so I wasn’t really surprised when Team Breezy launched a full-scale social media offensive – a word also apt for describing the content of their “I’d let Chris Brown beat me up anytime” messages.
Given that none of this is terribly surprising, I couldn’t figure out why two days later, I’m still so unsettled. Kanye West won four awards, as did my beloved Foo Fighters – who also got to perform twice during Sunday night’s telecast. Adele and her background singers, looking like the greatest version of “The Help” that will never be staged, absolutely killed “Rolling in the Deep.” With her armful of awards, the British songstress validated this Grammys as being The Year of the Woman. You know, unless you’re a battered woman.
There’s the answer. One day after the death of Houston, a tragic idol and victim of domestic violence, the Recording Academy paid tribute to her with one hand while patting an anger addict on the back with the other.
Houston didn’t release an album last year, unlike Brown, so it makes sense that she wasn’t slated to perform Sunday night. But the recording industry didn’t fully embrace her 2009 comeback. She wasn’t given the Grammy stage or even another statuette to add to her already record-setting tally.
It’s understandable. After all, her demons rendered Houston unreliable – not only was she known for canceling performances at a moment’s notice, if she did show up, there was no guarantee her performance would be anywhere near as perfect as we’d all once come to expect.
Maybe that had more to do with hot beats than bad reputations, but it’s worth noting Brown notched a hit album in spite of his past while Houston’s former glory couldn’t eclipse her tumultuous present.
Brown doesn’t have a reputation for being late or failing to blow away a crowd. No, he’s simply infamous for having no self-control and taking out his frustrations on the closest woman or window. But Brown makes songs that some people like. Whether he has talent is debatable, but The Voice he certainly ain’t.
Houston’s career was all about being flawless. When cracks formed in her image’s immaculate foundation, the house The Voice built collapsed around her.
I said that I wouldn’t forgive Brown until Rihanna did. The rumor mill buzzes that the star-crossed couple may have reconciled and if so, that’s on them and it’s not my place to speculate. I am, however, happy to come clean as a liar. I don’t forgive Brown and even if I do one day, when he’s done something worthy of widespread forgiveness (you know, like not breaking a shattering a pane of glass), I will never forget. Every time I see or hear anything Brown related, the first thing I think of is his teeth biting down on Rihanna’s flesh [graphic text, proceed with caution]. His fists colliding with her head. Her face in that leaked photo that still haunting me to the point that I won’t link to or look at it.
Even if I could stop having that visceral reaction to Brown, I’ll probably never fully forgive the legions of celebrities (including my beloved ?uestlove) who gleefully swept Breezy’s major moral failings under the rug in favor of a redemption story soundtracked by a sweet R&B beat.
I got it wrong. Initially, I thought the parallel was between Houston and Joe Paterno. It turns out it was between Houston and Brown.
Jon Stewart called it when he compared Penn State to the Catholic Church. Well Hollywood is now located next to State College, Pa. on the map of secular equivalents to Vatican City, and Brown is the latest offender to find absolution in the arms of an all too willing body of people who can’t condemn for fear their own sins be brought to light.
It’s worth noting, then, that Whitney Houston had to die in order reap redemption from the industry and the public. All Chris Brown had to do was fail to rehabilitate himself or show remorse. He just had to subsequently Stockholm Syndrome some impressionable fans.
And with that, the Recording Academy also doubled down on double standards. It’s just a tragedy that even in death, as she did in life, Houston still had to take a hit – however ceremonial – from someone with the last name Brown.