It’s appropriate that the title of Chris Brown’s latest album is F.A.M.E. because fame is eating this young man alive. His latest tantrum notwithstanding, Brown has been heading down this road for a while now. It’s not easy to bear the heat of the flashing lights, especially when you feel them as a teenager. And you’re surrounded by enablers. And you’re blessed with talent. The responsibility for those gifts is immense, and for a while, it looked as if his rise to stardom, particularly with Usher mired in marital malaise, would be unimpeded.
But the road to stardom is covered in cobblestone and a bumpy ride is assured. He began dating red-hot artist Rihanna, also thrust into the spotlight at a young age and given to similar privilege once the gravy train started rolling. Their fiery relationship was the stuff of gossip columns and websites everywhere as two very attractive and high-profile people should be.
There were rumors of violence. Brown was the victim of domestic violence as a child, subject to watching his mother beaten by her boyfriend after a divorce from his father. That demon tends to manifest in its victims later on in life. There were whispers that Rihanna was also given to violence. The whole world bore witness to the flameout, and there’s not need to rehash that.
He served his time and subsequent blackballing, with few willing to work with him, but many fans sticking by him, and eventually, as is the case when talent is involved, he was forgiven. Slowly people tired of the incident and, in cases like the BET Awards, where Brown’s show-stopping antics had become a perennial savior, his presence was sorely missed. His return was fast-tracked by an emotional tribute to his biggest inspiration, Michael Jackson, where in the heat of an emotional moment, and presumably elation and being back in the light, he broke down in tears, engendering both sympathy and forgiveness.
With everything seemingly back to normal everyone went back to their business. But Brown remained a wounded man. You could see signs that things were not well, and mini cries for help. Staying busy in the studio wasn’t enough. Twitter outbursts bespoke of perhaps an anger management issue. Dying his hair blond. Naked pictures. Subtle, attention-grabbing items that alone would probably amount to nothing, but collectively clearly signal that the young man has a problem. And we watch. And blog. And Photoshop. Or even worse, we turn our heads and never force him to confront his own issues, becoming apologists for the increasingly strange behavior of a man-child.
Earlier this week it came to a head on Good Morning America. Brown was there to promote the release of his album. Host Robin Roberts asked Brown a line of questions related to the Rihanna assault and the ensuing restraining order, the bulk of which was recently lifted. Brown chafed under the line of questioning and eventually stormed off during the break, almost getting into a fight with the segment producer and throwing a chair at a window overlooking New York’s Times Square.
Roberts was not out of line in her question, for she was one of the few people willing to let Brown give his side of the story when it first broke. For those comparing Brown’s case to others, including Brown himself who Tweeted (and erased) reference to Charlie Sheen’s outlandish behavior, I say that perhaps there is a double standard. But allowing for that will prevent Brown from facing his own demons; they exist whether or not Sheen stays #winning (sorry folks I tried). He needs to own up to his complicity in that event which he will always be linked to. But more important, he needs counseling. You don’t watch your mom get her ass whipped as a child and just get over it or outgrow it. It gets buried and it festers and it explodes when you least expect it. He needs the counseling that all abused children need, lest they repeat the sins committed against them. How many abusers formerly numbered under the abused?
Maybe it’s time for us to dim those lights. Maybe it’s time for Brown to stop thinking about his fans (Fans Are My Everything) and his haters (Fuck All My Enemies) and deal with the devil inside Chris Brown. He needs help. Not our excuses for his behavior, our pity, or our condemnation. If it doesn’t happen soon, the next explosion won’t be a chair through a window. And the consequences won’t be community service. It would be a shame to see such promise snuffed out when we all saw it coming.
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