Musical artists are increasingly flocking to YouTube as a way of engaging with their fans on a new level — everyone from John Mayer to Diddy seems to have a channel. Unlike them, R&B crooner Chris Brown, a site member since 2006, has never really done much with his. But despite the fact that it exists primarily as a storage facility for Brown’s music videos, the channel still has a large following — having received close to 8 million views, it’s currently the #62 most subscribed of all time.
And it was Brown’s weapon of choice yesterday when he made his first public apology for last February’s assault of his then-girlfriend Rihanna, which was major tabloid fodder even before photos of Rihanna’s face, post-attack, made it online. The 2-minute statement features six different variations on the word “sorry,” including “regret,” “what I did was inexcusable,” and “I am very sad and very ashamed of what I have done.” It’d be almost believable if he weren’t reading off a teleprompter.
I don’t know what’s worse for Brown: The fact that the YouTube comments on this video are either stupid or unforgiving, or the fact that on the same day he released this statement, Beastie Boys MC Adam Yauch also used the medium to publicly apologize to Beastie Boys fans…because they’ve canceled their upcoming tour so that Yauch can undergo cancer treatment. Not exactly who you want to be compared to on the day you say you’re sorry for punching your girlfriend.
Sure, the concept of the YouTube statement is genius on two levels. One, it puts the celebrity on an intimate level with the fans, who are given a greater sense of connection to their idol. And two, it isn’t a press conference, but instead a controllable piece of media that allows all of the power to remain in the creator’s hands. Which means that, unlike a press conference or interview, there’s no room for questions. It’s not a conversation.
Which pays off for Brown, as it means that he doesn’t have to answer any questions that might potentially endanger his case — especially since the questions he’d be asked would be uncomfortable. Personally, the only question I’d like to hear him answer is this: What is it, exactly, that you believe you are apologizing for? Brown’s message is presented completely without context, as he knows full well that everyone watching is familiar with the incident. But I’m curious to know what he thinks he did, in his own words.
For it doesn’t really matter the means by which you choose to spread it; an apology is only as good as the intention behind it. It’s just words, and in the long run, don’t fix anything.