By now, you probably have your opinion about Chris Brown, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. Either you think he’s a talented guy who made a horrible mistake but deserves a second chance, you think he’s a thug beyond redemption that doesn’t deserve to sell another record as long as he lives, or maybe you think he’s only worth paying attention to as long as he’s making decent music. But your mind’s made up—nothing we or any other writer is gonna say about the guy will sway you at this point.
One guy whose opinion at this point appears to be particularly set in stone would be Chad Taylor of the Des Moines Cityview, whose review of Brown’s latest album Fortune has been gathering some web buzz recently. To Taylor’s credit, at least he doesn’t waste hours and thousands of words trying to explain why Chris Brown isn’t worth our time. Rather, all he needs is six words and a couple square inches of print to get his point across:
Punchy, and it definitely elicits a chuckle, like that old Pitchfork review of Jet’s Shine On that was just a video of a monkey drinking its own piss. And we’re not such traditionalists here at Popdust that we demand that hundreds of words be spent in analyzing a record to really count as passing proper judgment on it. Some albums, there’s just not that much to say, and while it’s probably not a particularly professional or, uh, nice thing to do to imply that said album can be summarized by watching a disgustingly primal and comically absurd viral video…hey, there are albums that are just like that.
Our main objection is not to Taylor’s callous dismissal of Brown’s music, but to his dismissal of Brown’s music as an extension of the person he is. Say what you will about that Pitchfork review, but at least it was a statement about the site’s opinion of Jet’s music, and not about how their bassist once stole from a church collection plate or something. To so readily dismiss music on the grounds of its quality may be petty or snide, but to do so on the grounds of the guy making it is downright silly.
This is not to trivialize Chris Brown’s transgressions against mankind, which are obviously far graver than church-collection-plate-stealing, and should not be brushed under the rug in discussions of the man and his music. But to claim that it makes all music recorded by the man invalid…well, would a Cityview review of legendary producer Phil Spector’s Back to Mine box set, containing some of the most perfect, enduring pop songs ever recorded, read “Phil Spector shoots women. Enough said”? Where do you draw the line at when an artist’s real-life sins overrule and nullify their artistic contributions?
Of course, it’s not unreasonable to feel like an artist’s off-the-court actions make the quality of their music irrelevant to you—if there was some pop song that openly and sincerely expressed neo-nazi values, we probably wouldn’t write positively about it, no matter how well it was produced. But if Taylor was unable to separate his feelings about Brown the person and his feelings about Brown the musician—and no matter how scummy you might think Brown comes off on Fortune, no one could reasonably argue that he attempts to promote a pro-woman-beating agenda—then he probably should’ve passed the review off to somebody else, and if the Cityview didn’t feel they could write about his album as a paper without voicing such a stance, they probably should’ve avoided reviewing it altogether.
That’s not to say that if you can’t say something nice about a record, don’t say anything at all—but if you can’t say anything about the actual music on a record, then yeah, maybe stay out of the reviews section. After all, if music criticism only considered the character of the person making the record, there’d be a whole lot of legendary artists that would suddenly find themselves on the outs of the rock canon, and those nice boys (turned nice adults) in Hanson might suddenly find themselves the most critically acclaimed band of all-time.
The post Cute, But We Can’t Quite Get With This Six-Word Chris Brown Review appeared first on Popdust.