The XX Factor

Rihanna and Chris Brown’s New Song Will Be a Hit, and It’s Our Fault

Rihanna at GQ’s Men of the Year Party.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

No one seems to understand better than Chris Brown and Rihanna that the line between desire and disgust is very thin. Most decent people find the two pop stars’ public dance of obsession after Brown beat Rihanna nearly four years ago disturbing, but still, we can’t look away. And now our complicity in encouraging this situation is about to get much, much worse, as a new song from Rihanna’s upcoming album Unapologetic has been leaked, and it features Chris Brown on vocals.

Titled “Nobody’s Business,” it’s got #1-with-a-bullet written all over it. People, this song is catchy

As if to taunt the over-30 crowd that clucks disapproval, the song borrows its aesthetic from the R&B those of us who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s know so well. It’s got a house sound that would fit neatly into any club circa 1991, as Brown shamelessly imitates Michael Jackson’s singing style. I’ve listened to it three times and already kind of want to hear it again.

Needless to say, this is going to set off another round of publicity-garnering hand-wringing over why Rihanna keeps returning to Brown, when she knows he’s such a danger. The answer to that question is in the asking of it. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but when we talk about domestic violence in terms of asking why the victim stays, what the victim hears is that we think she’s stupid and weak. This, in turn, causes many victims to become defiant, and to stick by their abusers in an attempt to prove that they are perfectly capable of making their own decisions, thank you, and that he can change. They bind harder to their abuser, feeling like he’s the only one who understands their love.

I don’t know what’s going on in Rihanna’s head, but her actions are a very public display of how many victims of domestic violence feel while still stuck in their toxic relationships. She may be speaking her heart or she may simply be putting on a show. Either way, it’s distressing. If we, the public, want to stop egging on this train wreck, there’s only one thing we can do: Stop using their relationship for cheap titillation. GQ, I’m looking at you.