Chris Brown has seen his LPs branded with stickers that say people shouldn’t buy them because he beats women. Breezy’s steadfast refusal to apologise or show any sign of remorse over the whole thing has angered many, and there’s absolutely no justifying what he did. The police report of Rihanna’s injuries and statements is a profoundly troubling read – but should we really start applying morals to our musical purchases?
Damning Chris Brown is one thing, but the music industry is a murky business filled with people with appalling behaviour. Yet, for some reason, Chris Brown is the only one being singled-out.
Music has a whole host of artists who have been accused of domestic violence. James Brown was arrested and charged with criminal domestic violence for shoving his wife, Tomi Rae, to the ground and threatening her with a chair. In 1988, Brown was charged with assaulting his then-wife Adrienne.
Other people charged with spousal abuse include Phil Spector, Whitney Houston, Ozzy Osbourne, Flava Flav, Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Steven Adler and Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, Tommy Lee. There’s been numerous out-of-court settlements and accusations about other artists, so how do music fans pick-and-choose between them?
Whitney Houston even went as far as confessing to it, to zero outrage. She stated: “Contrary to belief, I do the hitting, [Bobby Brown] doesn’t. He has never put his hands on me. He is not a woman-beater.”
So should all the aforementioned artists see their albums covered with stickers, warning of their violent tendencies? If that’s the case, should all albums carry stickers, warning us of the artist’s unsavoury lives? Should Jerry Lee Lewis records carry a ‘13 year old cousin-marrying weirdo’ warning? Should Eric Clapton LPs have something on them about his onstage rant where he yelled: “I think Enoch’s right… we should send them all back. Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!”
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with railing against Chris Brown’s actions, but it poses a question – can you apply morals to which music you buy? The behaviour and actions of artists and celebrities are often dubious, sometimes disgusting. However, warnings clearly don’t harm an artist. Chris Brown’s success continues apace – in fact, a spokesman for HMV pointed out this morning that ‘stickergate’ has probably helped, not hindered, sales of the album.
In any case, Parental Advisory stickers have never worked. First introduced in the mid-80s, they were immediately seized on by artists and labels as a promotional tool – a way of attracting young album buyers, far from scaring them off. For many hip-hop and metal artists, they were a badge of pride.
Should music fans be more mindful of the morals of the artists they buy into, or should we divorce the artist from their work? You can’t have it both ways. If you accept that Chris Brown’s music is abhorrent because of his actions, you’d better be prepared to boycott a whole lot of other artists, some of them legendary figures. And that’s fine. But if every album ever created by a morally dodgy individual is to be slapped with a “warning” label, you’re going to need an awful lot of stickers.