Chris Brown made his return to the Grammy Awards on Sunday, three years after he assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of music’s biggest night.
The 22-year-old singer performed twice — once alone and then as part of a (confusing) group effort — and took home the award for best R&B album.
With his shirt open and tattooed chest showing, Brown admitted to being “nervous” during his acceptance speech before thanking God, the Grammys for having him back and his legion of fans, known as Team Breezy.
He later tweeted, “Team breezy we have come along way and I'm so appreciative of you guys!!!! No matter what anyone says.... WE MADE IT!!”
This so-called comeback appearance at the Grammys evoked strong reactions from both his fans and his critics.
Naturally, Team Breezy was pleased with Brown’s performance and win. On the celebrity side, he was congratulated by Paris Hilton, Tyga, Nicki Minaj and Ludacris. The Grammy audience welcomed Brown to the stage with huge applause.
(The cynic in me was extremely relieved that the Grammy cameras did not pan to Rihanna, who also performed at the event, at this moment.)
While the reception to Brown in the Staples Center was warm, there was a strong backlash on Twitter against his presence.
Shortly after Brown performed for the first time, the term “WomanBeater” began trending. The hashtag was used both by his critics and by Team Breezy members, who seem used to doing battle for their idol.
The police report from the assault — which details the violent attack that led to Brown’s conviction for felony assault — also began making the rounds on Twitter, as did Buzzfeed’s compilation of 25 troubling reactions to his performance. These Twitter users claim — perhaps in extremely misguided jest — that they would allow Brown to assault them.
This divided reaction to Brown was not a surprise. Before the ceremony aired, Sasha Pasulka of Hello Giggles argued against Brown being welcomed back to the show in an article titled, “I’m Not Okay with Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys and I’m Not Sure Why You Are.” Pasulka believes that the entertainment community’s lack of condemnation of Brown’s crime shows young women, “You are powerless. You are worthless. You will be a victim, and that will be okay with us.”
“A man who hits a woman in anger may eventually be permitted to go on with his own life, but he is not permitted back in my life, even if it’s been three whole years,” Pasulka concluded.
Anticipating the backlash, Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich justified Brown’s inclusion in the show to ABC News: “I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years, and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”
That “second chance” didn’t go over well with some music critics.
The Post’s Chris Richards wrote, “Brown hopped up and down a terraced stage like a pop-locking Q*bert, trying to dance his way to America’s forgiveness. He was arrested for assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of the 2009 Grammys, but his acceptance speech after winning best R&B album included no act of contrition. When Chris Brown is getting more airtime than Whitney Houston, there’s a serious problem.”
The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones didn’t mince words in his denouncement of Brown. Describing the singer as “woman-beating rage-broccoli,” Frere-Jones wrote, “[Brown] ended his performance by back-flipping off the stage, though sadly not off the earth.”
“Though autopsy results have not yet been released, it’s difficult to argue that Houston’s disastrous relationship with Bobby Brown — marred by drug abuse and domestic violence — didn’t contribute to her eventual downfall and perhaps her death,” Palan writes. “To use the occasion to theatrically mourn Houston without mentioning the irony of the evening also honoring one of the world’s most famous wife beaters was a mistake.”
How did you feel about Brown’s return to the Grammys? Tell us in the comments.