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Chris Brown: His persistent problem

Senior writer Melissa Maerz looks at post-Grammy reactions and tries to make sense of the new twists and turns in a troubling story

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During a concert on Feb. 16, Miranda Lambert held up a sign that read: ”Take Notes Chris Brown.” Then she sang the hell out of her hit ”Gunpowder and Lead,” about a woman who plans to kill an abusive ex. Granted, threatening to shoot a man might not be the best way to keep the moral high ground. But Lambert’s not the only one taking aim.

Two weeks have passed since Chris Brown won a Grammy, but the controversy around it continues. Celebrities as varied as Jack Osbourne and the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines criticized him on Twitter, while morning shows rehashed the details of Brown’s 2009 assault on Rihanna and discussed the disturbing postshow tweets from female fans. (”I’d let Chris Brown beat me up,” said one.) And for many of us, there remains something deeply discomfiting about the industry’s embrace of him.

Yes, the Academy has doled out statues to alleged abusers like Miles Davis and Axl Rose in the past. But let’s be honest, in less plugged-in times it was easier to separate the musician from the man. Now the gory details are ever-present: After the Grammys, blogs reposted Rihanna’s police report, detailing how Brown punched, bit, and choked the singer. And the man can take to Twitter, to show he’s remorseless: Five days after the show, Brown posted, ”Let them be mad!!!!”

It doesn’t help that the Grammys’ response was so tone-deaf. Exec producer Ken Ehrlich told ABC News Radio, ”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.” The Grammys were the victim? Not the woman in a chokehold? (The Grammys’ publicist did not respond to interview requests, and Brown declined to speak with EW.)

True, everything has gotten more complicated since Rihanna and Brown have teamed up professionally and allegedly rekindled their romance. But as teenage girls post ”Team Breezy” YouTube tributes, the consequences of inviting him to stage his comeback on air are obvious. It’s now impossible to keep art separate from life — or, more accurately, to tell the difference between the two.

As for Lambert, she can take note: During the Grammys, her husband, Blake Shelton, performed a tribute to Glen Campbell, who was accused of abuse during the 1980s by ex Tanya Tucker. Decades later, we all may have forgotten Campbell’s transgressions. But no one should be so eager to forgive them.

Really, Rihanna?
On Feb. 20 — Rihanna’s birthday — Chris Brown and the singer released two new collaborations online: remixes of her single ”Birthday Cake” and his ”Turn Up the Music.” Early response from fans on Twitter ranged from the surprisingly positive to the blunt: ”I HATE YOU BOTH.”