Rihanna and Chris Brown put forth two songs and raise questions
Note: This is an expanded review from yesterday's post, "Rihanna, Chris Brown reunite with not one, but two songs."
While the music media world was wringing its hands about Chris Brown’s appearing on Rihanna's remix of “Birthday Cake,” the two former — or current, so far no one really knows — lovers were busy hatching not just one song but two. Not only is Brown lustily serenading Rihanna on “Cake,” but she appears on a new version of his song “Turn Up the Music,” complete with giggles at the end — presumably because they were having such a great time sending confusing, poorly conceived messages to anyone listening.
Let’s break it down track by track: First, there’s “Birthday Cake,” a fire-alarm-festooned sex burner that’s about as subtle as a hot pink thong. This is the song that will really get people talking — and not in a good way. Brown makes a splashy entrance, declaring his intents from the first line: He wants to get joint counseling, of course! Whoops, no. He just misses her body, the same one he assaulted three years ago, and wants to “give it” to her “in the worst way.”
As a mere collection of sounds and beats, there’s a provocative sheen to “Cake” that would make it serviceable fodder for club grinds, but its message is so convoluted given the context that it deserves to drown in the murky waters it was born in.
What are we supposed to take from this? Is this a sign of romantic reunion or simply two celebrities willing to milk their domestic abuse incident for more fame and/or notoriety? Either way, isn’t there a more powerful message to send here than the blithe intertwining of sex and violence?
Sure, it’s pop music, not a therapy session, but simply ignoring the weirdness of their nebulous reunion in favor of sexual innuendo involving innocent cake and frosting doesn’t help the song along. Why wasn’t it possible to insert some wisp of forgiveness or redemption — themes both artists have touched upon in their own work?
Brown’s “Turn Up the Music” is by far the safer track, so safe it’s a wonder that they bothered to further dress up this wan reconstitution of Kylie Minogue. Maybe it can be taken as a sign that at the end of the day, Rihanna and Brown are simply pop stars who just want you to turn up the music, buy their records and forget all that other stuff.
If only we could be so lucky. From the start, Rihanna and Brown have asked that the public allow them to move beyond their turbulent past — but here they are flaunting it, in dull yet reckless approximations of edgy individuality. Indeed, to paraphrase a line from “Birthday Cake,” which way do they want it? Public or private? Some listeners would love to make their romantic status, past and/or present, none of our business — now, if only we could get their cooperation.