Beautiful People

So I was pleased to get some views after my last post, but I realize that tree hugging and Facebook bashing aren’t enough to sustain us.  We need to talk about some real and pressing issues.  We need to talk about Chris Brown.

For starters, he’s generated some talk recently, but if you don’t care enough to follow that—and I don’t know why you would—then in a nutshell:  He recently collaborated on two tracks with his ex-girlfriend Rhianna whom he assaulted back in 2009.  Feminist groups have responded with heavy criticism of Rhianna, saying she should no longer associate with Brown.  After pleading guilty to the assault charge Brown is now serving a five-year felony probation.   Accusations abound that he violated probation last week on the 19th when he allegedly stole a picture-snapping fan’s cell phone while exiting a Miami nightclub.

My interest in him was recently piqued when I found this.

I figured that if Brown’s dancing can inspire such witty hyperbole then it was worth a look, and sure enough, it was, but that still doesn’t adequately explain why Brown is worth mentioning here.  I think the reason why Chris Brown has recently been a focus of my thought of late is because Brown is the musical heritage of Michael Jackson, and I was raised on Michael Jackson.

Of course, Brown isn’t the only homage to Michael in pop music today.  Justin Timberlake and even Justin Beiber have the same roots.  While all of these artists have been the target of much vitriol in the public eye, I have to say that something about their music and their dancing makes me feel like a kid again.  I danced to Michael in front of the bathroom mirror when I was a kid, and now that I’m an adult the mirror is a large one in my living room and the dancing continues.  I do more than just “like” this kind of music.  I identify with it.

That’s partly why I think I feel confused and perhaps even betrayed by Chris Brown.  I sometimes find it gratifying to reflect on how little in this life is really truly unprecedented, and music is no exception to that.  If you do your homework, Michael Jackson is mostly in the creative lineage of James Brown, but I would argue that Frank Sinatra would also count as an influence on the self-proclaimed King of Pop.  These men often prided themselves on being suave, socially adept, good movers and good dancers.  I aspire to those same qualities, and thus, came to admire many of those men.

Chris Brown has the look of these men when performing.  When not performing, tragically, he’s a thug.  What’s even more heartbreaking for me is that he’s one of the most talented of any of these individuals yet.  His dancing does deserve hyperbolic description.  His songs are catchy as hell.  But what good are these messages of love and acceptance when we consider their source?  All we’re left with is the music and someone who is fun to look at.  Isn’t music meant to inspire a sense of connection between the artist and listener?  Isn’t every creative medium supposed to create that connection when we get right down to it?

Now before you say it, yes, I realize that a comparison between the rotten Chris Brown and the benevolent Michael Jackson has some holes in it.  Michael supposedly did some very bad things in his life.  I remember.  In his defense though, it was never proven that he did those bad things, and truthfully, he was sick.  Michael Jackson had an upbringing that made him and destroyed him all at once.  He would never have been the performer he was if not for a sadistic father that made him rehearse for cruelly long hours.  He would never have had an unhealthy interest in children if not for the fact that he was deprived of his own childhood.  That being said, I didn’t know—nor would I have understood—any of that when I was a kid dancing in front of that mirror.  I just knew that Michael said “heal the world” and after enough plays one can’t help but internalize some of that.  You are what you eat.

Part of my fascination with Brown also comes from when I taught middle school.  The first year I was in the classroom I was teaching 6th grade.  This was 2007.  At the time I had never heard of Brown, but it didn’t take long.  His name was written on more notebooks than I could count, often surrounded by a large curvy heart.  If one attracts the attention of young people, then they should recognize the obligation they have to set a good example.  Brown doesn’t have even a questionable nature.  He’s overtly rotten.  If he can’t bother himself to even put on the façade, then where does that leave his fans?

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One Response to “Beautiful People”

  1. Amber Ruckebeil Says:

    “Chris Brown could eat a human baby live on television after announcing he was joining the Miami Heat, and if he popped and locked continuously while choking down the tender infant’s flesh, I would have literally no qualms with it.” Pure Genius. Thanks for sharing.

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