Chris Brown’s public relations front took another hit last Tuesday when the R&B star smashed a dressing room window after he was questioned about his assault on former girlfriend Rihanna on “Good Morning America.” Or, at least, analysts tell us that the incident will hurt Brown’s image. I might argue that this outburst might cement Brown’s bad-boy attitude and actually benefit him in the long run.
Before we continue, let me clarify that I certainly do not condone violence towards women, and I don’t think that specific incident was anything but harmful for Brown’s career. But what is he supposed to do, pretend he’s actually the world’s nicest guy who made one dumb mistake? He’s apologized, and the public has made clear that’s not going to get him off the hook.
The solution is to release an album and throw a chair through a window, in Brown’s case. The listening public loves people with bad reputations. That is to say, we love their reputations, if not the people themselves. Two celebrities showed in the last year just how much they stood to gain by being assholes.
Most recently, Charlie Sheen lit up Twitter and search engines thanks to his on-air rants against “Two and a Half Men” producer Chuck Lorre and his claims of having “tiger blood,” among other bizarre statements.
If I were to call my boss incompetent, tell my friends that I was “dia-winning” instead of diabetic, and add a second girlfriend, I would be in a world of hurt. Sheen, however, is reaping the benefits of his self-centralization. For the time being, he’s lost the more than $2 million an episode he was making, but he’s already scheduled a speaking tour, and you can’t tell me that new roles, book deals and, hopefully, a video game series won’t come soon after.
The second major benefactor of being a self-admitted “douchebag” is Kanye West. West has always been at the center of ill-advised actions. His actions during the latter event led critics to wonder whether he had finally gone too far. Had he finally pushed the limits of how much forgiveness a good song would merit? The answer of course, was no. If anything, his stage-storming at the VMAs was one of the best publicity stunts ever.
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” became the most acclaimed album of 2010, and it contained a grand total of zero apologies. West toasted his own egomania with a deft combination of clever beats and rhymes. It was like Michael Jordan in the clutch; West needed his shot to be perfect or the game was over. Fans and critics unconsciously admitted that they loved him for being unlovable.
It’d be nice if the end result was always a good one for the artist. All too often celebrities drown in the personalities that fans come to expect.
I’m a huge fan of the grunge bands that came out of Seattle in the early ‘90s. Growing up, I loved Soundgarden and Nirvana, but I especially appreciated the particularly dark music of Alice in Chains.
Alice’s first two albums, “Facelift” and the critically beloved “Dirt,” were diaries in which vocalist Layne Staley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell wrote about the overwhelming love/hate relationship they had with heroin. Tracks like “We Die Young” sum the band up. By the time I had started listening to the band, Staley was dead of an overdose. He died in 2002, and weighed only 86 pounds when he was buried.
When I listen to “Hate To Feel,” I wonder if I’m at all to blame for the deaths of people like Staley. Supposing I was 22 in 1991, would I be giving them money to fuel their habits by buying the album? Would I be applauding their bad behavior just by enjoying the music?
Cantrell fortunately sought help, and he’s now on tour with a reassembled version of Alice in Chains. The group, drug-free, released an album in 2009. But the new album is leagues away from the content the band produced when heroin was its muse.
I truly and sincerely hate to admit that I liked one of my favorite bands best when it was in the grasp of narcotics. I wish Sheen could be funny without being a lunatic and I wish West could be just as talented in the studio without being an egomaniac. I would never trade a man’s life for a good song.
So Chris, go to the club, have a few drinks and pick up as many women as possible (just don’t hit them). It might not make you the most upstanding human being, but it’s better than trying to fake being a cookie-cutter Christian for our sake. After all, to quote another superstar, you were born this way.