Talking Shit

Chris Brown's Media Problem Isn't All About Chris Brown

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Besides his own music, Brown sings hooks on almost every hip-hop song on the radio. It's not like he's a has-been. His "New Flame" is blowing up the radio. In it, he links up with two music heavyweights, Usher -- the dancing, singing, reigning king of radio R&B -- and Rick Ross. Many of us very actively encounter Brown's voice on a daily basis. But writing about him is more complicated than singing along.

The reasons he's not written up enough include his criminal past, the fact that dudes singing R&B aren't "hip," and the fact that the demographic his fans represent is often ignored by the media.

To be fair, it kind of sucks to have to address the topic of domestic violence every time you write a positive thing about an artist. He did something that most would consider unforgivable: He physically attacked his girlfriend, a beautiful, budding superstar. This, of course, elevated her status and rightfully diminished his. Even though Rihanna dated him again years later, no one will forget this act, and his shame will continue as long as the internet exists. But remember, Brown is still only 25 years old, so that's likely to be a long time.

And though many will argue otherwise, the truth is, if we'd never worshiped at the altars of talented criminals, who knows what backs today's greats would stand upon. Yeah, you can stop listening to Chris Brown or watching Woody Allen movies, but the truth is, most artists in history were creeps, misogynists, perverts, criminals. But without them, we'd have no Beck (had to), no Questlove, no Beyoncé.

And while we're on the subject of Bey, let's talk R&B. Music blogs drop their panties day in and day out for Beyoncé. She's legitimately talented, but to be frank, her live show is more than a little mechanical. Point is, she's not the "perfection" everyone makes her out to be, and that's cool, because we're all human beings, and "perfection" is not a pretty thing. Women can still sing R&B music and garner true praise, but men singing R&B seem to have a harder time. Thankfully, D'Angelo has arrived to save the genre for all the dudes with smooth voices. But D'Angelo's most recent album is next-level deep. It's not made for the regular radio.

On to the third point: Brown doesn't have as culturally diverse a fan base as his colleagues. The reason Brown is so often overlooked is because his fans -- young women of color -- are often overlooked and generally underrepresented in every medium (this is not to say all young women or non-Anglo females are fans, of course).

A year ago this week, the Women's Media Center released a report that showed how underrepresented women are in the media, specifically, "Women of color -- who are spotlighted in this report for the first time -- are among those who have lost ground in recent years." So, women of color weren't even a subject in the Women's Media Center's research till 2014. If that doesn't say something, I don't know what does. It also shows there aren't that many people in charge of what we're reading and watching who would showcase the interests of this group. I would also posit that it's more out of ignorance than malice.

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Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.
Contact: Liz Tracy