Happy 24th birthday, Robyn Rihanna Fenty. We remember your first record, "Pon De Replay." Nice, disposable dancefloor pop. It was urban enough to get people dancing in high school, but not sexy enough to fertilize anything -- that would come later with "S&M," an ode to whips, chains and men everywhere wondering what it would be like to get with you.
And wonder we have. However, you've left little to the imagination as of late. Your videos are more provocative than they were in 2005, when all you and your friends wanted was for the DJ to play your song again. It was a simple request. Now your videos show you in a darker light, just wanting to be loved, no matter how hopeless a place that may seem, no matter how many drugs are left to distort the reality.
But the reality is this: You are loved, Rihanna. You're a star on a global scale, contending with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry as the trio of pop's reigning princesses. Madonna is trying to keep up with you three, not vice versa. The world of pop may be in an interesting state right now, but it's not hopeless. You've proved that, single after single, album after album -- you released album number six last year, during only your sixth year in the industry.
We're sure that you can agree part of Gaga and Katy's appeal is their image. The same goes for you. It's not just your music that we stand behind; it's you as a complete entity -- your style, your attitude, your tweets, your honesty. But now it's time for us to be honest with you. If the rumors are true, that you and Chris Brown are seeing each other romantically, that's one thing. We will give you your privacy, because you deserve that -- even if we secretly wished you were dating us and not him. But if it's true that you and Brown are working together on a remix of "Birthday Cake," your slinkiest, darkest, dirtiest slice of pop yet, we don't want to be a part of the party anymore.
The thought of you singing about blowing your candles out, wanting it "in the worst way" and wanting to "f*** you right now" walks the edge of pop indecency, but when you add in Chris Brown to that "Cake" mix, it tastes far too pro-domestic violence for us, given your history together. We like our pop like we like our escapism, devoid of gravity, and we no longer want to listen to your music, no matter how many reincarnations we've seen you go through, when your singing about S&M is no longer just tongue-in-bruised-cheek pop. It just creeps us out too much.
It's funny that your look at the Grammy Awards two weeks ago bore striking resemblance to Tina Turner, because she too had been in an abusive relationship. Granted Chris Brown was no Ike Turner, but once Tina left him, she was gone. You never saw the pair team up again. For anything. Proud Tina kept on rolling. And here you are, with your abuser, possibly preparing to release the filthiest pop song upon the world together. Does that make you feel as dirty as it makes us feel? You're not easy to love when you're making career-defining decisions like this one.
We think Joshua Lipshultz over at Billboard was right when he wrote you that letter a few days ago, calling you out on your choice to work with Brown. "By granting Chris Brown an iota of tolerance, you implicitly encourage others to consider doing the same," Lipshultz wrote. But Lipshultz didn't go far enough.
Assuming that the lyrical concept behind "Birthday Cake" will remain the same even with Brown as the special ingredient, what you're condoning isn't just tolerance, it's domestic violence sprinkled in sexual abuse. Think about it, Rihanna -- because that's exactly what you'd be placing on a serving tray to share with the world if the rumors are true. Is that what you want? If so, Chris Brown can have your "Cake" and eat it too. We, on the other hand, are going to pass. You may have to spend your birthday alone after all.
Movers & Shakers: Billboard is projecting that Katy Perry's Grammy performance of "Part Of Me" will propel the single to a number-one debut on the Billboard Hot 100 come Wednesday. In the meantime, Kelly Clarkson holds the top spot again with "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," followed by Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain." "We Are Young" by fun. and Janelle Monae leaps 38 spots to number three, while LMFAO make a smaller jump, from number nine to number four. Rihanna and Calvin Harris sit at number six with "We Found Love." Whitney Houston returns to the top ten this week, following news of her death propelling fans to buy her music, placing "I Will Always Love You" from The Bodyguard soundtrack at number seven. Lower, Madonna's "Give Me All Your Luvin'" lands at number ten. It is the first time the pair have charted together since the '90s.
On the Billboard 200, Adele holds steady at number one with 21, the set's twentieth week at the top. Van Halen's new album, A Different Kind Of Truth, debuts at number two. Colorado boys done good, The Fray scores a number-four debut for Scars & Stories, the band's third album. Paul McCartney's American songbook set, Kisses On The Bottom, comes in a spot behind, and Whitney Houston's greatest hits album, re-enters the chart at number six. The high charting only proves what we already knew: We will always love you, Whitney. Always.
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