It is the summer of 2007 and a song called Umbrella is dominating airwaves around the world. The singer responsible is more popular than she has ever been, featuring on the cover of several iconic magazines and fast becoming one of the world's biggest stars.
Another star who emerged in 2005 is also enjoying a career high. Chris Brown, the all American boy-next-door, is set to release his much-anticipated sophomore record, Exclusive, and is secured to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Sunday 7th September 2007. Rihanna and Chris Brown surprise the world by performing the latter's celebrated remix of the song of the year, Cinderella, at the VMAs, unofficially announcing their debut as a couple. Over the next few months, the two persist in denying a romantic relationship, with Rihanna oft describing Chris as her 'little brother'. The union, that saw the two drawn as the 'younger Beyoncé and Jay-Z', is never actually confirmed, a fact that has since been forgotten. Indeed, it took a tragic event to verify the existence of the relationship that had long been suspected; something that shook the very foundations of the pop industry and had lasting ramifications.
In what has since come to be referred to as 'The Incident', the events of Sunday 8th February 2009 will surely go down in pop history. With the then unexplained cancellation of both Chris and Rihanna's pending Grammy Awards' performances, rumours emerged that the former had been arrested in the early hours for assaulting a woman - someone who, it was later revealed, was the star's equally-as-famous girlfriend.
Over the next few months, Chris' music was essentially banned by radio, his videos were blacklisted by channels like MTV and VH1, and he suffered a career backlash the likes of which hadn't been seen since Ike Turner. Rihanna, on the other hand, saw an arguably unwelcome interest in her personal life develop. Later described by the starlet herself as being 'crazy', the attention the media paid to Ms. Fenty was more than ever before. The subsequent release of Rated R and Rihanna's first interview since The Incident, appropriately given to 20/20, saw her career reach new heights. It was clear that while her star rose, Chris' (justifiably so) fell.
But this piece does not intend to rehash the much-discussed events of 2009 or even 2010. In fact, the only reason the aforementioned was included was to provide background for the true purpose behind this article: to address and decipher on the ongoing relationship that Chris and Rihanna continue to have; to the unhealthy fascination the two still seem to have with one another. Indeed, it is apparent that, if anything and contrary to purpose, their breakup has served to draw the two only closer together - if only in the eyes of the media and general public.
Allow us to digress for one moment. Chris' career has since seen an undeniable revival. His latest single, Turn Up The Music, was his first number one hit in the UK and in the last year alone, he has performed at every major award show. This despite controversy surrounding his immature attitude, displayed on many an occasion (one such example being the happenings at Good Morning America in March 2011). Personal opinion of Chris' talent aside, we have never stood behind his various, questionable antics. Ignoring the media's treatment of him, we refuse to adhere to the insensible belief that he is a 'victim' of his circumstances; if only because they were of his own making.
That aside, it is arguable that the public had seen fit to 'do a Rihanna', and let past events be viewed as just that. It is also worth pointing out that 2011, his most successful year since 2007, saw a clear distance being kept between Chris and Rihanna. The two made it clear on several different occasions that they no longer had anything to do with one another on a personal or even professional capacity, and there is merit to the argument that that may have contributed to the media's apparent willingness to 'forgive' Chris.
2012, however, saw a sea-change in the relations between Chris and Rihanna. With the controversial release of the Birthday Cake and Turn Up the Music remixes which saw the two collaborate for the first time in over three years, the Navy (Rihanna's fanbase; oft-described as ineffectual when it comes to Billboard 200 chartings) and the media were in uproar. Billboard, themselves, took to their website and wrote open letters to both stars; with Rihanna directing one of her infamously 'shady' tweets at them mere hours later. She has since also taken to withholding and giving out information inexplicably simultaneously, unofficially confirming that she and Chris are friends, while news outlets insist that the two are back together (neither paying any heed to Brown's largely ignored girlfriend, Karreuche Tran).
Now, we have never been the type to discuss anyone's sexual habits, primarily because we do not think they have any relevance whatsoever. However, this article would not be complete or unbiased if we did not make any reference to Rihanna's allegedly indiscriminate sex life. If reports are to be believed, her relationship with Drake, though short, left the 'rapper' feeling a little sour. Hence, her insistence on hanging with those that she has scorned is arguably unwise. Dating those that may prove likely to exact petty and bitter revenge is also not advised. One only has to take the events on Twitter in late May as an instance of why.
On 29th May, Drake and Chris took to their feeds to 'sub-tweet' each other, apparently discussing their respective relationships with Fenty in a less-than-respectful manner...
As we said at the time, if these are the thanks that Rihanna's 'friends' give her (especially after she has gone out of her way on many occasions to make it clear that she has forgiven Chris for the events of early 2009, and after the collaborations that essentially cemented it), then she urgently needs to re-evaluate the criteria required to meet that description (as well as those that determine who she allows to access her... pastry). If they were indeed discussing Fenty (as we genuinely believe they were), then these tweets were not only reprehensible but disrespectful and unwarranted. One could therefore logically conclude that neither Chris nor Drake viewed Rihanna in a positive light, so you can understand our confusion as to the events of Thursday morning.
A short two weeks after the above conversation, Drake instigated a brawl between his clique and Chris', resulting in several people (including the latter's bodyguard, Big Pat) being injured. Said to have been angered by Chris' mere presence at New York nightclub, WIP, and disregarding the bottle of champagne Brown apparently had sent over (or perhaps because of it, who really knows.) Drake allegedly threw a bottle in his direction and sparked both a now infamous fight and a feud that will no doubt continue well into the summer. And all, seemingly, over a certain Bajan pop star.
Judging by reports, the softest rapper this side of Ray J is completely to blame, but that is not going to matter to the media or general public. Unlike us, what many of Chris' fans fail to realise is that, while the police will not hold him responsible, due to Chris' disreputable track record, he will be found guilty in the court of public opinion.
Allow us to summarise the issue by concluding with our personal opinion. The ill-advised rekindling of Chris and Rihanna's relationship seems to be apparent only to a select few. While most people work to stay away from their exes (especially those that suffered through a particularly ugly breakup), it seems that Rihanna and Chris are drawn to each other in a way that hasn't been seen since Sid and Nancy. Their names are mentioned in conjunction every other day, and in a distinctly unflattering light.
We find ourselves among the few that acknowledge or even realise the aforementioned. It is irrelevant that The Incident is 'so three years ago'. As has been made clear by stars like Ike Turner and Whitney Houston, the crimes of the past follow one even into the grave. As was said earlier, it is also foolish to describe Brown as a 'victim'. Chris will forever have that self-inflicted stain on his record; all he can do from here-on-out is conduct himself in a manner that is above reproach. We must also address Rihanna, whose recent odd behaviour has been far from advised. Yes, occasional controversy is all well and good, and she is free to do as she pleases (a characteristic that many of her fans cite as being their reason for liking her) but incidents like this only impact her image in a negative light. If she is indeed working towards the standing of icons and legends (as her fans argue), then it is important to have the goodwill of the media on her side; something that is being lost by being associated with events such as Thursday's.
Whether friends, lovers or otherwise associated, it is arguable that, both professionally and personally, they are better off apart. It cannot be a coincidence that both saw significant (and markedly recent) success when they maintained a distance from each other. The media and general public had started to mention the Incident less and less when discussing Chris, and Rihanna's career was only going from strength to strength. This year, however, has seen Rihanna be accused of drug abuse, Chris featuring in the news for all the wrong reasons; and all after rumours of a reunion started up. The collaboration certainly did them no favours, with Fenty recently having to fend off questions about both the song and her current relationship with Brown; something that hadn't occurred in a long while. Indeed, it seems that while Rihanna previously had had the world's sympathy on her side, she is now being drawn with the same controversial pen as her ex, with her attitude and personal life being under even harsher scrutiny than in 2009. Chris, on the other hand, is being dragged into 'beef' that arguably would not exist if not for his re-association with the Caribbean star.
At this point, it is apparent that Chris and Rihanna have to make a choice. They can either make it clear that they have once again distanced themselves from one another, ensuring that MTV, E! and other such news outlets no longer mention their names together every other day, and further their careers in a positive fashion. Or they can continue on with this 'are-they/aren't-they', steeped-in-controversy relationship that they currently enjoy, and persist in offering themselves up as cannon-fodder for the media's never-tiring guns.
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