The controversy that has surrounded Chris Brown and Rihanna's musical reunion - on the third anniversary of his Grammy-eve assault on her in 2009, no less - has brought about no shortage of judgment, argument, commentary and not least confusion.
Perhaps strangest of all is the fact that the duo essentially announced their reconciliation by guesting on remixes of each other's songs: The remix of Brown's current single, "Turn Up the Music," features Rihanna; and a remix of "Birthday Cake," from her current album "Talk That Talk," features him.
The specifics of their relationship and the emotions that the reunion have aroused are far beyond the purview of this article, but suffice it to say that the controversy does not seem to have hampered either song's performance at radio - if anything, the opposite has taken place.
Although it is receiving airplay, Rihanna's remix has not charted; Island Def Jam is still working her album's title track, and a label rep told Billboard.biz it is currently deciding on plans for a possible retail release of the "Birthday Cake" remix.
However, as previously reported, "Turn Up the Music" debuted high on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 10 this week. Following his performance of the song in a medley with "Beautiful People" at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 12, the song vaults onto Hot Digital Songs at No. 9 (180,000 downloads sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan) and climbs 71-56 on Hot 100 Airplay (21 million, up 27%, according to Nielsen BDS). It jumps 28-23 on the Rhythmic radio airplay chart (and 36-27 on Mainstream Top 40). In all, 212 stations that report to the Hot 100 aired the track in the past seven days.
While only the solo version of "Turn" has been released digitally so far, RCA, Brown's label, is planning to release the remix - featuring Rihanna -- digitally this week, a label executive told Billboard.biz.
While many declined to comment, several R&B programmers - the gatekeepers of the format where Brown has scored the bulk of chart success - and industry trackers were willing to talk about the songs (albeit Rihanna's more than Brown's) when asked by Billboard.biz.
"My philosophy is to play the hits," said Hollywood Hernandez, program director of Cumulus' syndicated R&B channel "The Touch," although he said the song has not yet crossed over into his Adult R&B format. "If it's a hit song, I'll play it."
Don Parker, PD of mainstream R&B KMEL San Francisco concurred. "We are playing ['Cake'] on KMEL. Not only have our listeners responded to us that they want to hear it, but we also feel it will likely be a hit for our market."
"Yes, we are playing 'Birthday Cake' in rotation," said Kelly Mc Daniel, PD of mainstream R&B station WUSL in Philadelphia. "The original version of 'Birthday Cake' was already hot with just Rihanna, and when our Mix Show Director 'Cosmic Kev' walked the remix in the other day the entire music team decided this was a smash and also a highly anticipated record, so we jumped on it immediately. The station's Twitter and Facebook pages have been going crazy and buzzing with lots of interaction since. What's funny is we haven't even listened to the Chris Brown song with Ri Ri on it yet."
"I have no problem with them getting together to do a collaboration or them getting back together as a couple," said Bob O'Brien, WKJX Nags Head, N.C. PD. "We all make mistakes. It is what we learn from them that matters most." He noted that WKJX is not playing "Cake" yet, but may. "We will follow it and see what it does nationally," he said, adding that the poppier "Turn" "does not fit my format."
Kevin Ross of industry news site RadioFacts.com said he believes that "Turn" has a chance at leading to widespread acceptance. "Chris Brown and Rihanna are both exceptionally talented and this is a marketing business. I'm sure their fans want to hear from them and it's a brilliant idea to show that they can both move past the situation and still support each other.
"Who are any of us to judge anyone else?" he continued. "Black radio is very conservative but the black community is often very forgiving at the same time.
"I think radio, both urban and pop, will respond well. Even if it doesn't, I think the fans will."