Without blaming anybody for her personal choices (note the pronoun), without castigating anyone for their fandoms, it’s nevertheless safe to say that the Rihanna and Chris Brown remixes of “Birthday Cake” and “Turn Up the Music” are fundamentally bad ideas, things that should not exist, spectacles that get more and more uncomfortable the bigger and bigger they become. Even by writing about them, we make them just a bit bigger.
That said, it doesn’t matter how much or little we write about it, because a) even if we stop, everyone else will just continue, and b) Brown and Rihanna’s respective labels aren’t ignoring the tracks but actively pushing them. “Turn Up The Music”–the Rihanna-free version, but still–is No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, a solid debut, and although “Birthday Cake” is a hard sell right now-”Talk That Talk” is still a single, “Birthday Cake” is rather explicit for some formats, and the album version is essentially 1/3 of a track–radio played it anyway, and there’s no real reason its remix couldn’t follow. There are plans, or at least tossed-about ideas, to ship both remixes to retail. In other words, this is really happening. You might’ve thought this was Rihanna leaking a track despite her label’s wishes (it started as a direct-download link over Twitter); you might’ve envisioned radio programmers taking a stand. That didn’t happen, you can’t stop this, we can’t stop this, and come a few months, it’ll all be even more inescapable probably. Hooray!
Billboard’s full article, if you’re in a place where you can read it, has a little more insight, albeit in the form of a lot of radio programmers delivering a lot of variations of “not my problem” and “look, shiny social media numbers!” and “this is just business, it is not personal.” You know what? We’re just going to end this post here.
(Below, a video from a more comfortable era.)