Amid the glory of Adele’s wins, the return of her astounding voice from surgery and the solemn rememberance of Whitney Houston’s recent death during Sunday night’s Grammys, there was something a bit disturbing about the show. It wasn’t Nicki Minaj’s ridiculous performance — though, if there was a jump-the-shark moment, Nicki’s performance was it — nor the fact that Skrillex has inexplicably become accepted by the mainstream with three Grammy wins.
No, it was Chris Brown’s performance.
Everything was, as per usual, spot on in terms of his performance. He showed panache in his dance moves. He almost kept the impression of impassioned singing while lip-synching songs off his latest album, F.A.M.E. What was so off-putting about the performance was what it signaled about the Grammys and the music industry in general: an organization so willing to welcome back Brown, almost three years to the day after he violently beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna.
A performer should not so gloriously be given the stage after such high-profile abuse, let alone one with a felony count. It’s fine to recognize Brown by bestowing award nominations (it would not be the first or the last time the Grammys rewarded subpar music), but giving him five minutes of unadulterated performance time shows an acceptance of Brown, of his conscious actions and choices.
And the Grammys don’t arbitrarily choose performances. Everything on the show is calculated for maximum impact (see the cluster that was The Beach Boys, Foster the People and Maroon 5 performing together), and to put Brown on stage in the vicinity of Rihanna and during a time that is so strongly associated with the incident could be construed as insidious, if not simply tone deaf.
And simply tone deaf and ignorant is maybe what the producers of the show are as evidenced by some of they comments they’ve made. The executive producer of the Grammys said in an ABC Radio the morning of Sunday’s show said, “If you’ll note, he [Brown] has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”
If nothing else, the performance and the Grammys’ support of it is especially jarring when you consider just how lackluster Brown’s music is. From the beginning, he released mediocre pop-R&B. And all he has to do is continue to do so and somehow he gains back the support of fans all over as evidenced by the swoons of many female fans on Twitter?
But maybe that’s just the way things work in pop music now: accepting and even praising the lowest common denominator, with no questions asked of one’s character or talent. Brown’s performance at the Grammys and the awards show circuit in general is but a symptom of the genre’s slow decline.
Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Brown sings despite assault convic-