When Chris Brown and Rihanna dropped their remixes of "Birthday Cake" and "Turn Up the Music," fans immediately began to weigh in on the collaborations and what they mean about the status of Ri and Brown's highly publicized tumultuous relationship.
While the songs may serve as a distraction from their personal past (which includes Brown's assault of Rihanna in 2009), many of the music fans we caught up with in Times Square stood on two sides of the line. Some were willing to forget the past and enjoy the music for what it is, while others were not yet ready to forgive.
"They're both really good artists. I like Chris Brown a lot. He was down at the bottom during that time and then he came back up," James Hauser told MTV News. "So he's starting to do better."Cassy Cnegt pointed out the negative attention it could bring to both artists, rehashing a personal story line that doesn't seem to end. "I think there's going to be a lot of bad publicity about why she's doing it," she said.
Another fan, Billy Titus, added, "His music's all right, but I think that she can do a lot better by herself than be with him."
Jean-Yves thinks their collaborations show how far their relationship has come. "The fact that they're able to work together is a good sign for Chris Brown, as opposed to the animosity that was there before."
However, Aliyyah notes that it's difficult to separate the music from the events. "Personally, I think it's a little bit awkward for them in terms of their relationship, because he did hit her and the world knows that, so it kind of sends a weird message to her fans — especially her women fans — to still support him in that way, but I guess it's not our life," she said, adding that Brown has built up a "bad boy" reputation and that he may be trying to get Rihanna to take him back.
While music fans stand on both sides of the complex issue, one domestic violence expert tells MTV News that seeing these two artists work together again is "not surprising."
"I don't know what the message [of the songs] is. I would like the message to be: 'People can change, and I will never be treated that way again and I will never treat anyone that way again.' If they had released a song saying, 'This is what this represents for us,' that would be such a much more fabulous, powerful story than not saying a word," Rita Smith, the executive director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said. "The content of the songs seems to be more in-your-face than something about, 'We're collaborating on something because we care about the way people treat each other.' That would have been the message that would have been nice to come out of this very public and tragic incident."