Upcoming M.I.A.-Chris Brown collaboration proves opposites attract

Opposites, as Paula Abdul once noted, attract. In Abdul's case, the opposite was Skat Cat, a rapping, cigarette-smoking cartoon feline whose straight-up making out with the live-action Paula lent the whole video a vaguely disturbing sexual undertone. In the case of M.I.A., the opposite is apparently Chris Brown — and while there's not anything sexual about it, it's still kind of disturbing.

Last week, the inscrutable Maya Arulpragasam hit the studio for work on her apparent next album, taking on a number of somewhat unlikely contributors, Swizz Beatz and Polow da Don among them. But the most surprising, and off-putting, is Brown. Not that Maya would give a shit what you think. As a matter of fact, that's the first way in which M.I.A. and Chris Brown are opposites.

Probably the best thing about M.I.A. is that she has a consistent history of doing whatever she wants; her albums are always weird to the point of being unlistenable in spots, and a good chunk of her genius is her willingness to risk alienating her listeners with weirdness. She also more or less stays out of the spotlight in her personal life. Her one notable press battle was the Lynn Hirschberg-engineered truffle-fry campaign, and while she didn't exactly react well to it, let's be honest: She kind of got shat on with that whole thing.

Chris Brown, on the other hand, is like a walking drama magnet — and I'm not even talking about how he beat Rihanna. That shit's old hat. What I'm talking about is how he keeps bringing up how he beat Rihanna. Everything he does is like a crass, wheedling plea for redemption. For a weirdly perfect example of that, look no further than his recently released song "M.I.A.," where he croons "She knows I been hittin' her" — and then adds "on the phone," but there is just no other way to interpret that. The song, by the way, is a ballad about how he knows his girl is cheating on him — that's some nice, subtle blame-shifting — and he's going to send his boys out to find her.

Is it just me, or is that a little sinister?

It's even more troubling when you place it in the context of the shitty temper tantrum he threw when Good Morning America wouldn't play nice, because Chris Brown does not want to talk about how he fucked up, he wants to talk about how he's really sorry and everyone look how sorry he is. And he will not rest until the whole world forgives him.

More important, though, than their disparate approaches to personal marketing is the music M.I.A. and Chris Brown each make. M.I.A. makes music that straddles the line between established and experimental, pushing the boundaries of pop music; if her music was a building, it would be an abandoned refinery covered in graffiti. If Chris Brown's music was a building, it would be a McMansion in a subdivision of McMansions: pleasant enough to inhabit, but unremarkable in pretty much every way.

But opposites do attract, and it's true that the results can sometimes be pretty exciting: Put two unstable chemicals together, for example, and their violent and spontaneous bond might result in an explosion. Then again, when you mix together the yin and the yang, all you get is a gray circle — and that's pretty fucking boring.

Jef Otte is the assistant arts & culture editor for Westword and blog editor for Show and Tell. Read more by Otte at his Westword author page.

My Voice Nation Help

Dear Mr. Ote, Its honestly disturbing how ill informed you are about Chris Brown, as well as how you are misleading the public, either purposely or because you don't have the facts. Firstly, Chris Brown has had to contend with people vilifying him and continually addressing the question about his domestic violence towards Rihanna for over 2 years. And while she has been milking it for all it is worth for years, he has not said a bad word about her and has put up with way more harrassment from the general public and has taken a hit to his career, unlike other artists who have abused their spouses, such as John Lennon, Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain and Eminem to name just a few. And, of course, rock n roll artists have never trashed their hotel rooms in fits of rage!! That's never happened!! I'm not making excuses for his behavior, but it certainly is unbelievable how much more scrutiny his actions have gotten in relation to many other (white) artists.

M.I.A. is not a "recently released" song. I have had it in my collection of over 450 Chris Brown tracks for at least 2 years, and was an unreleased song, most likely from his "Exclusive" era of music over 3 years ago. Chris Brown's catalog of music spans all genre's of current r-n-b, hip hop, dance, euro, pop, bubble gum soul, adult contemporary ballads, 80's retro pop. His catalog has songs to uplift, songs to make you think, songs to fall in love to, and definitely songs to dance to. Chris Brown can sing live, act, dance, rap, direct, produce music, write and visualize music unlike virtually any artist of his generation. Both industry vets and new artists want to work with him, and the prolific song crafting abilities he has rival Tupac in his short creative life. Chris Brown has been known to have hundreds of ideas for songs.

Chris just came off "Deuces" being number one on the Billboard R-n-B chart for 10 Weeks (from a self promoted mix tape.) "Yeah 3x" is a worldwide top 5 smash, "Look At Me Now" was Number 2 best selling single on I-Tunes and is currently in the Top 10 on the pop chart. "No Bullsh*t" (also from previously mentioned self-promoted mix tape) spent 2 weeks at Number 1 on the Urban Charts. He currently has duets right now out with Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne, T.I. (also charting pop and r-n-b), Keri HIlson "One Night Stand" (next single off her album), Twista (also currently charting), Diddy (also charting), new single with Chipmunk (UK grunge artist) recently hit Number 2 in the UK, "Dueces" Remix with Drake, Andre 3000, Kanye West, T.I., Rick Ross, and Fabulous (still charting), new Euro Pop single with Benny Benassi top 10 in Europe, and cuts with Jae Milz, Jawan Harris, and Pitbull. New single from Big Sean featuring Chris Brown just out! New song by T Pain featuring Chris Brown just hit the internet! Plus, don't forget the three Grammy Award Nominations recently!! He reports to have come up with ideas for 2000 songs for his latest album, and with a library of well over 450 CB cuts, I can assure you he can sing anything. And don't forget the 3 FREE mixtapes of all original material he put out for his fans in 2010 !! Brand new single "She Ain't You" just out.

Chris Brown has fulfilled 60 days of his 180 days of community service (that would be 180 unpaid hours of picking up trash, cleaning graffiti, and scooping horse manure from police horse barns), he has completed 120 hours of domestic violence counseling, and he has followed his court orders. Additionally, he has done volunteer work in domestic violence shelters in Los Angeles with children (not a part of his court order, but just because he wanted to understand the cycle of violence more fully) and he has contributed money and volunteerism to several charities (Best Buddies working with mentally retarded children, charity basketball games, raising money for underprivileged children in both Virginia and for the Earthquake victims of Haiti, Man Up anti-violence charity in Virginia) while his earning potential certainly wasn't what it once was due to the charges against him. He has attended all his court ordered hearings, been lavished with praise from the judge (""Of all the probationers I have had, no one has done a better job, or been more consistent than you. You are working diligently.") In addition to all that, he has been working tirelessly on his craft, having also starred in a number 1 movie.

I would strongly suggest you dig deep into his vast catalog before you criticize things you clearly haven't researched. Who co-wrote the title song for Mary J. Blige's recent album? Yup Chris Brown. Get going on the research because his vast catalog of music will take you a long time to get through!! You need to look deeper man!!

Denver Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • February
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat