Birthday amends: Chris Brown, Rihanna dancing around the cake
One doesn't need a day of observance to fret over the lives of the rich and famous, but with this Presidents Day happening to coincide with Rihanna's birthday, the self-promotion that is the release of an artist's new single suddenly carries controversial, perhaps uncomfortable, weight.
At some point in the next 24 hours, Rihanna is expected to release a new take on her single "Birthday Cake," a song in which the increasingly sexually explicit artist keeps the metaphors as thinly veiled as possible, and a remix of which is believed to feature her former boyfriend and abuser, Chris Brown.
There's been no official confirmation of Brown's appearance, but Rihanna and Brown are doing their part to feed public anticipation. Early Monday, Brown, who is serving five years' probation after pleading guilty in August 2009 to felony assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna after a party, sent an all-caps tweet to Rihanna wishing her a happy birthday. This was welcomed with open arms by Rihanna, who promptly re-tweeted it.
This, of course, offers no real clue as to what Brown may or may not be bringing to his much rumored remix of "Birthday Cake," an electro club song that wastes little time in getting to the point, with Rihanna cooing to "lick the icing" over a strip club-ready beat. Yet it is evidence that the two are making no effort to distance themselves from each other or their troubled past, and have no fear of potentially distorting a case of domestic violence into a publicity campaign. Last year, without any objections from Rihanna's legal team, another judge eased a restraining order that had prohibited Brown and Rihanna from contacting each other or getting too close at music industry events.
Much of the public, of course, has already re-embraced Brown. His 2011 album, "F.A.M.E.," has sold more than 831,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Yet despite its success, the industry and public have been grappling with how to applaud his work while maintaining a comfortable distance.
Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, found himself defending the decision to allow Brown to perform twice on this year's Grammy Awards. However, country star Miranda Lambert lashed out at the telecast via Twitter, saying it's "not cool" that all had been forgiven so soon.
Those who have been following the soap opera know what happened next. Brown went off on his Twitter feed, writing: “Hate all you want because I got a grammy now! That’s the ultimate ... off.” He later removed that tweet but he posted what was perceived as three direct digs at Lambert on Feb. 18, including one in which he wrote, "Using my name to get publicity? I love it! Perform your heart out!" That tweet was quickly followed by one in which Brown sarcastically recommended buying Lambert's "motivational and PERFECT" album.
Meanwhile, rumors that Brown was on the remix of "Birthday Cake," fueled by the declaration from production duo Da Internz to MTV that the song would feature a collaboration that would "shock the world," have continued to swirl. The song, with or without Brown, is expected to be released Tuesday.
-- Todd Martens
Image: Screenshots of the Twitter accounts of Chris Brown and Rihanna.