A pub­lic breakup, then makeup. W Why watch?

When we feel like we’re do­ing someth We can boy­cott prod­ucts, turn off tele Can’t we do the same here? Ig­nore th With any chance of success for them o

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE 55TH GRAMMYS - richardsc@wash­post.com Twit­ter: @Chris _ _ Richards

Cen­ter stage to sing along­side Bruno Mars and Sting. He’s ex­pected to be out in the crowd, next to her empty seat, cheer­ing her on. They’re both up for mi­nor tro­phies, but the big­gest news is that they’re of­fi­cially back to­gether, a de­ci­sion only an in­dus­try that stands to profit from their sense­less re­u­nion could smile upon.

“I de­cided it was more im­por­tant for me to be happy,” she re­cently told Rolling Stone. “I wasn’t go­ing to let any­body’s opin­ion get in the way of that. Even if it’s a mis­take, it’s my mis­take.”

Starry eyes read that as “own­ing it,” but ei­ther way, she’s prof­it­ing from it. She dom­i­nates head­lines as a su­per­star who’s sold more sin­gles than any artist of the dig­i­tal era. So as long as we’re buy­ing her hits at $1.29 apiece, this will con­tinue to feel like our mis­take, too.

Be­cause she never ap­peared to grasp the sig­nif­i­cance of his bru­tal­ity. Be­cause he never came across as truly sorry for it. Be­cause they both know the world keeps them un­der 24-hour sur­veil­lance. Be­cause this en­tire or­deal seems to feed on our sus­tained, rapt at­ten­tion.

And when we feel like we’re do­ing some­thing wrong, we can stop. We can boy­cott prod­ucts, turn off televisions, give up sugar and caf­feine. Can’t we do the same here? Ig­nore them? Would it be ra­tio­nal? Eth­i­cal? With any chance of success for them or for us?

Just as their rec­on­cil­i­a­tion re­fuses the re­demp­tive nar­ra­tive, it re­fuses a sim­ple re­sponse. But five win­ters deep, even say­ing their names feels like com­plic­ity.

Grammy night has been a sparkly mile marker in this fog, an­nu­ally up­dat­ing mil­lions of couch-sit­ters on their progress, or lack thereof. She made a low-key re­turn to the

Gram­mys stage in 2010, dressed in a white, feath­ery frock, Jay-Z stand­ing by as her tuxe­doed guardian. To­gether they ac­cepted an award for their col­lab­o­ra­tion “Run This Town.”

In 2011, three months af­ter “What’s My Name?” be­came her sev­enth No. 1 sin­gle, she per­formed it at the Gram­mys, the song’s re­frain sound­ing more like a search for her own iden­tity than bed­room trash talk.

He had his turn last year, per­form­ing two va­pid dance tunes on a ter­raced stage that looked like some­thing out of the an­cient ar­cade game Q*bert. Later in the pro­gram, his fourth disc, “F.A.M.E.,” won the Grammy for best R&B al­bum, and when he ap­proached the podium with an op­por­tu­nity to win back the planet’s good­will, he merely thanked the Gram­mys, his fans and his higher power.

Then he rushed to thumb out taunts to his crit­ics on Twit­ter: “HATE ALL U WANT BE­CUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ul­ti­mate [ex­ple­tive] OFF!”

Later that same month, Fe­bru­ary 2012, new mu­sic leaked into the world — the two had been col­lab­o­rat­ing on remixes of each other’s sin­gles. Hers, “Birth­day Cake,” had been trans­formed into a car­nal duet be­tween an abuser and his vic­tim. It seemed way too in­sane to be­come a a hit, which of course it did, earn­ing mil­lions of YouTube views and end­less ra­dio spins.

And now we’re back to Fe­bru­ary. The col­lab­o­ra­tors are a cou­ple again. Maybe she’s for­given him be­cause he’s deeply con­trite, pro­foundly changed, but the head­lines make that dif­fi­cult to imag­ine.

On Tues­day, he was ac­cused of fail­ing to com­plete the court-or­dered com­mu­nity ser­vice for his as­sault con­vic­tion. (On Wed­nes­day, she ac­com­pa­nied him

to a Los An­ge­les County court­room for the hear­ing.) That news came less than two weeks af­ter he and his en­tourage al­legedly as­saulted R&B singer Frank Ocean over a park­ing spot out­side a West Hol­ly­wood record­ing stu­dio — which should sur­prise no one who read about the Man­hat­tan night­club brawl he stoked last sum­mer with Drake.

Th­ese are the episodes we know about. It’s easy to dread the ones that might be coming and just as easy to pre­tend that ev­ery­thing will end up fine.

We’re not really a part of their lives the way they’re a part of ours.

Yes, there’s a harm­ful cul­ture of si­lence and shame that hangs over

in this coun­try, but af­ter four years of fail­ing to squeeze them into

domestic abuse

hing wrong, we can stop. evi­sions, give up sugar and caf­feine. hem? Would it be ra­tio­nal? Eth­i­cal? or for us?

the frame of a cau­tion­ary tale, it now feels per­fectly rea­son­able to tune them out. They both have real lives pop­u­lated with real friends and real fam­i­lies and real sup­port. Leave it to them. (It should also be noted that she has a trove of re­sources that the count­less bat­tered women who idol­ize her do not.)

This en­tire thing has thrived on an au­di­ence, and our par­tic­i­pa­tion seems to only spur more bad de­ci­sions, more defiant at­ti­tudes, ev­i­denced by what they share on Twit­ter and Instagram. He’s prone to tantrums. She re­cently tweeted a verse from the Book of Psalms. They live on the de­fen­sive, you and I against the world, re­cidi­vism poorly dis­guised as re­bel­lion.

And the songs don’t feel right. Pop mu­sic is the stuff we turn on to make sense out of our big­gest, messi­est emo­tions. But his is high-gloss dance fuel that’s be­come im­pos­si­ble to smile about. Hers is now char­ac­ter­ized by a blankeyed ag­gres­sion that, in big, re­peated doses, be­comes a numb­ing agent.

Four years later and ev­ery­thing has cir­cled back to where it be­gan, a fresh start at a dead end where there’s noth­ing to learn, noth­ing to hope for, no­body to root for, noth­ing for us to do other than stop feed­ing their mi­asma with our money and our at­ten­tion.

We can prob­a­bly stop right here.



Days af­ter this photo, she was an abuse vic­tim, and he faced two felony charges. Nei­ther ap­peared at the Gram­mys that year.


She and Jay-Z took home a Grammy for “Run This Town.”

She shared the G per­form­ing “Love th


ram­mys stage with Eminem, e Way You Lie.”


He made a come­back, win­ning best R&B al­bum.

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