Can we Separate Music from Musicians?

The career of Chris Brown in the years since he violently assaulted his then girlfriend, Rihanna, provides an instructive illustration both of how difficult and how easy it is to separate an artist’s music from their life. Brown has had huge commercial success since the incident, without publicly showing sustained contrition (apologies have been accompanied by misdirection, and a further violent outburst in March 2011 seemed to support many people’s view of Brown as unrepentant). And yet, seemingly whenever he is duscussed, the incident provides the meat of the conversation. In an A.V. Club  review of Brown’s latest album, Fortune, Evan Rytlewski speaks on the subject:

Bad people can create worthwhile art, of course, but more than Ike Turner, R. Kelly, or nearly any other musician with a sordid history, Brown makes it impossible to separate his music from his transgressions. Fortune is…the unmistakable work of the same petty, violent hardhead that the tabloids have documented so well.

Published on 16 July 2012

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