Chris Brown’s win at Sunday’s American Music Awards—after his performance at the show was canceled at the last minute—has divided fans on Twitter.
During the live broadcast of the ceremony, aired by ABC, there were audible boos from the audience at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theatre when presenter Kelly Rowland announced that the 33-year-old had scooped the Favorite Male R&B Artist trophy.
Rowland, 41, told the booing crowd to “chill out,” before saying on behalf of the absent star: “I wanted to tell Chris, thank you so much for making great R&B music and I want to tell him thank you for being an incredible performer.
“I’ll take this award—bring it to you. I love you. Congratulations. And congratulations to all the nominees in this category,” Rowland added.
Virginia native Brown’s absence from the show came as something of a surprise, as he had been scheduled to perform a Michael Jackson tribute on the night. The performance was canceled without a reason being publicly shared.
Brown has been the subject of contentious debate between fans and detractors over the years, not least because of the numerous incidents of violence involving women he has been associated with, including an altercation with then-girlfriend Rihanna, 34, back in 2009.
In June 2017, Brown’s ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran, 34, got a five-year restraining order against him over accusations that he was aggressive towards her and demanded the return of money and jewels he gave her during their relationship.
As news of Brown’s victory circulated across social media, a number of fans jumped to the singer’s defense, while others wrote that he should no longer be afforded a platform.
“We know Chris Brown did something horrible when he was 19,” read one viral tweet.
“But my issue is the media picks & chooses who to hold accountable & who not. Mark Wahlberg been having a non judgmental career for yrs & he attacked a man causing him to be blind whilst calling him a racial slur.”
The Twitter user was referring to an incident that Wahlberg has spoken about. At the age of 16 in April 1988, the actor, 51, assaulted a Vietnamese American man on the street, knocking him out with a wooden stick while shouting obscenities at him. He attacked another Vietnamese American man, Johnny Trinh, later that day.
In 2016, Wahlberg requested a pardon for the crime, saying he had met with Trinh and apologized for his “horrific acts,” with Trinh releasing a public statement forgiving him.
Court documents show that, as a teenager, Wahlberg and friends also provoked black children, yelling abuse and throwing rocks at them.
Noting Brown’s canceled performance, rapper Casanova tweeted: “Michael Jackson tribute can only be done by@chrisbrown… I guess it’s no tribute!!!!!! I hope that don’t go over y’all heads!!!”
“Chris Brown can’t have sold 30+ million albums worldwide, sold 100+ million singles, have billions of streams and also have the amount of hate that people claim to have for him,” tweeted another fan. “Y’all lying and love his music. The numbers don’t lie.”
However, a number of other Twitter users expressed their disapproval of Brown being given a platform, with one explaining that his controversies did not end with his assault of former girlfriend Rihanna.
“Chris Brown has done so many horrible things since that at this point he would still be a terrible person if the Rihanna incident didn’t happen,” Get Her, Jade! tweeted. “Y’all’s revisionist history to cape for this man is insane.”
“Chris Brown is not the R&B god they make him out to be,” tweeted another. “I’m kind of over abusers getting these redemption arcs, too.”
Noting the number of women speaking out in defense of Brown, another wrote: “Ain’t never seen Chris BeatEmUp Brown defend Black women the way Black women defend him when people rightfully call him out for being a serial abuser. Not that we need that abuser’s help. But have some self esteem & dignity, ladies!”
Newsweek reached out to representatives of Brown and the American Music Awards for comment.
Following Brown’s February 2009 altercation with Rihanna, a photo showing her with severe bruising led to a public outcry and criminal charges for Brown, who subsequently pled guilty to assault, completing his probation in March 2015.
Recalling the incident in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2012, Rihanna said: “It was a weird, confusing space to be in because, as angry as I was, as angry and hurt and betrayed, I just felt like, he made that mistake because he needed help and who’s gonna help him? Nobody’s gonna say he needs help. Everybody’s gonna say he’s a monster.”
Brown was arrested in January 2019 after a woman accused him of raping her in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Paris. However, he was released with no charges filed against him. Brown said the incident didn’t happen, posting to Instagram “This B**** Lyin.”
In 2018, a woman identified in court documents as “Cassandra” was granted a restraining order against Brown after she accused him of hitting and stalking her.
Kelly Rowland Sticks Up for Chris Brown Amid Booing at American Music Awards
You got something to say about Chris Brown? Kelly Rowland has this to say to you: “Chill out.” The Destiny’s Child singer was on hand (in latex glove) to present the American Music Award for Favorite Male R&B Artist at Sunday’s ceremony. Rowland’s announcement that Brown had beat out Brent Faiyaz, GIVĒON, Lucky Daye, and The Weeknd sparked an audible rumble of boos in the Microsoft Theater.
After announcing that Brown was not present at the ceremony, Rowland scolded rowdy members of the audience, saying, “Excuse me. Chill out. But I wanna tell Chris, thank you so much for making great R&B music, and I wanna tell him thank you for being an incredible performer. I’ll take this award, bring it to you. I love you. Congratulations and congratulations to all the nominees in this category.”
At this point, Brown is a polarizing figure in R&B. He retains a loyal audience (say anything remotely negative about him on social media and find out just how loyal Team Breezy is) and continues to have hits (his “Under the Influence” is at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot R&B Songs chart).
Brown winning the award for Favorite Male R&B Artist in 2022 tracks with his relevance (even if it makes my boomer teeth hurt to hear him effectively described as “continuing the lineage of R&B music” set in part by Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Usher, and Maxwell, per Rowland’s introduction to the category).
That said, he physically abused Rihanna in 2009 (before the Grammy Awards) and had glaring issues with taking accountability (and overall petulance) afterward, so it’s not at all surprising that a rather vocal fraction of the audience refuses to forgive him, some 13 years later.
Brown, by the way, was supposed to perform a tribute to Michael Jackson at Sunday’s AMAs, but that was pulled just days before the ceremony “according to sources and a report in Puck,” per Variety, “apparently over the optics of Brown, who pleaded guilty to assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna the night before the 2009 Grammy Awards, leading a tribute to Jackson, who faced a 2005 criminal trial for child molestation but was acquitted.”
The show’s executive producers Jesse Collins and Stephen Hill reportedly clashed with the network (ABC) over the tribute, and ABC won. Dick Clark Productions provided a statement to Variety: “Live shows change all the time, it’s the nature of this business. Unfortunately, this element of the AMAs didn’t come together as we couldn’t align on the performance, to no fault of Chris Brown.”
Brown confirmed the canning on Instagram, writing, “WOULDVE been the ama performance but they cancelled me for reasons unknown.” Even though we could have guessed, now we know—allegedly.
The AMAs also featured mentions to Colorado Springs’ Club Q, the queer club where a gunman killed at least five people Sunday morning, from Kim Petras, Dove Cameron (in her acceptance speech for New Artist of the Year), and host Wayne Brady, who also paid tribute to slain Migos rapper Takeoff. “We have to stop this senseless and terrible gun violence,” said Brady. Also, Pink paid tribute to Olivia Newton-John, who died earlier this year. Pink is generally known for getting physical and scaling the height of whatever auditorium she’s in, as well as sometimes buildings, but with her feet on the ground, she performed a relatively subdued cover of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” from Grease.