In the pantheon of greatness, there are many assholes. John Lennon. Ludwig von Beethoven. Eddie Van Halen. All of these people make/made undeniably great music; all of these people are/were demonstrably pompous, entitled, demanding asshats who would be unbearable to know.
Like anyone else, I like to believe that the music I like is made by nice folks, but mostly that's just not the case. The litany of great musicians/shitty people is lengthy, and I decided a long time ago to make it my policy to just ignore it. And I'm pleased to report that it works: Beethoven might have thrown shit at audience members who whispered, and even the son John Lennon liked might think he was a dick, but that doesn't limit my enjoyment of Double Fantasy or Beethoven's Seventh in the slightest.
Nevertheless, I am conflicted.
In all of pop music today, there is not a single artist more loathsome than Chris Brown. He beat the shit out of his girlfriend, of course, but what was far more disgusting was his PR strategy in the aftermath: The fake tears, the petulant temper tantrums — he was sorry as long as you didn't try to make him feel sorry. More recently, there was his little performance at the MTV Video Music Awards — and I'm not really talking about his "Yeah 3x"/Wu-Tang/Nirvana/"Beautiful People" montage.
During that number, Brown's $22,000 Rolex apparently came loose, causing him to toss it casually aside while dancing — evidently too far, because it got lost in the audience. Now listen closely, because here comes the part where Chris Brown is an unbelievable shitbag: Miraculously, a fan was kind enough to return it, and "although Chris did not get to meet the fan," his rep told TMZ, "he is very appreciative of the fan's actions." Wait, so this person returned his $22,000 watch and he didn't even deign to meet that person? What a mind-bogglingly dick move.
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And yet...and yet I can't ignore that that same performance was awesome. In fact, the more I encounter Chris Brown, the more I'm assaulted with the conflicting facts of both his dickitude and his talent.
Take, for example, "Look at me Now." Within the first five seconds of that song — when he asks how you're going to hate from outside the club when you can't even get in and then laughs that annoying little shit laugh that makes you want to punch him in his stupid fucking round face — I hate him. And furthermore, I know that song is directed at me, the hater critic crying in the wilderness — verily, from outside the club — about how much he sucks while he continues to not care and rake in cash, probably with an actual rake. But here's the most awful part: I like that song. I have rolled down the windows and blasted it. And I am ashamed.
One day, it won't matter. Chris Brown will be remembered as a talented performer who could sing, dance and flow, all with irresistible panache, and the fact that he was a domestically abusive piece of shit will be only a footnote. But for the first time in a long time, I feel kind of bad about that.