Rihanna And Chris Brown Find Headlines In A Hopeless Place



BACKLASH POTENTIAL (5 points): At least one of these remixes will be a massive radio track, and every blog post decrying the pairing will be part of the reason why. (2/5)

THAT EXTRA JE NE SAIS QUOI (5 points): Leaking the "Birthday Cake" remix on Rihanna's birthday, even though the first lyric is "It's not even my birthday": Genius bait and switch or another sign that the track's central metaphor is hopelessly confused? (4/5)

TOTAL: 41.5/50. Trollgaze.

Look, I get that Rihanna—long painted as a puppet of her label overlords—has spent much of the last three years publicly taking control of her life, and making this "unexpected" move is the latest example of that. (Note, also, that in "Birthday Cake" she delights in making the cake-eater her "bitch," thus implicitly reducing Brown to said role.) But I can still be grossed out by the notion of using the worst tendencies of a hyperactive media obsessed with turning its celebrity fixations into chess pieces as a way to get publicity for songs that are, on their face, mediocre. Sure, their celebrity status means that the Rihanna/Brown relationship isn't wholly private; still, we don't know what goes on behind closed doors between these two, and why should we, really. I just wish that instead of the fuck-the-haters Tweets, the two were straight-up in their responses to naysayers, or even would just let the music—as not-good as it is—do the talking.

Thinking about this topic brings up a lot of volatile and personal emotions on all sides; that's evident from the passion shown by everyone who chimes in. Adding to that fact is that these are seriously uncharted waters we're dealing with here, celebrity-industrial-complex-wise—both the always-on media and the clear channels for both artists responding to their critics fan flames on both sides in a way that's much faster than Walter Winchell could have dreamed. Lingering over all this is the ugly spectre of the photos taken three years ago after Rihanna was attacked, those pictures that were leaked against her will and showed her at her most bruised and vulnerable. Is this outcry a reaction to people trying to separate artists and their backstories from their art, as well as from those onlookers' personal reactions (which are themselves tied up in their own histories) to that backstory's most horrific lows—and being unable to do so? (Obviously the twinning of art and artist is a problem particularly endemic to pop music, as Sasha Frere-Jones noted during the Lana Del Rey debacle, and here it's even more pronounced.) Or is it the result of feeling grossed out? Or both? Every time I think I have an answer, my brain comes up with a counterpoint. Although I'm very solid in my belief that the songs are just not any good at all.

Note: These songs are our first Trollgaze Index entrant to pass the test! To celebrate, I'm going to take a lye shower.

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