For those who aren’t familiar with his name, Matt Morris is a songwriter and has had much success with artists such as Cher, Justin Timberlake, Sarah McLachlan, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson and Mary J. Blige (among several others). Today, On his website #Allofthesongs, Matt wrote a very insightful post about the power of choice and the alignment of his work with his values. The post also focused on Chris Brown and how his actions have impacted his career and reputation…as well as how our society has reacted to it. It’s really interesting and definitely worth reading. As I wrote a few days back, I get tracks sent to me via e-mail. Last week I received one for Chris Brown. My first thought when I saw his name: I will not write for Chris Brown. I didn’t even listen to the track. No interest. None. Zilch. Nada. Thank you, but I’ll pass. Here’s why. I take pride in writing songs that empower women. I write songs that seek to inspire women to feel stronger, to believe that they don’t need to endure the negativity, the subjugation, or even the violence that can be inflicted on them by (most often) men. This isn’t the only kind of song that I write, and it isn’t only women who enjoy these songs. Many a man has had these experiences. (Intersectionality, check.) Chris Brown does violent things. Sometimes to women. This isn’t conjecture. It’s fact. That’s enough for me. How could I in good conscience write a song that bolsters the ego of a self-admitted woman beater? I couldn’t. Some might scoff, saying that he’s done his time or that you should not judge, and I say — hooey. That’s not the point. When you do something like that, inflict violence on another person, you don’t just get to wipe it away. That is always a part of the life you’ve lived, of the life you’re capable of living. Your lack of restraint, your willingness to use your strength against somebody — that’s a part of what’s made you who you are, just as much as your talent, your looks, your achievements. You have to own the whole package, forever. You can move past the fact that you beat a girl, and she can forgive you, but that doesn’t mean that everybody is supposed to forget. Forgiveness is not a wiping clean; I see it more as an embracing something for all of what it is — even the bad stuff. And, when you’re looking from the perspective of a songwriter, a person who is supposed to provide an artist with a song that takes the stuff of their life and weaves it into a melody and a lyric, how can you not take all of that into account? Brown has been done his time, yes. He’s on probation. Big on him. That’s an obligation, not an inherent sign of personal growth. And maybe I am judging a little. Maybe I’m making the judgement that I wouldn’t want to be in that dudes head. I wouldn’t want to be in a room with him. I’m not a fighter, a posturer. I’m not going to drop trou and prove my manliness just to get a song cut. Brown has a right to be alive and to make his mistakes and receive his accolades. I just don’t have to be a part of it. I think it’s okay for a songwriter — for a creative person of any sort — to say, “No. I don’t think I can work with that person. I don’t think I can help that person discover his voice, or to bring something good into the world.” I’m not a therapist (yet). I’m a songwriter. And now it looks like Brown may have violated that probation. He may have, indeed, assault Frank Ocean. The New York Times reported that the LA County Sheriff’s Department is investigating as much. Orange tweeted about it. We’ll have to see how it plays out. But even without this new piece to the puzzle, I feel I’m justified in setting this boundary. I’m passing on a negative, potentially violent and volatile situation. That’s how I see it. Now Frank? I’d write with him in a heartbeat (not that he needs me). He’s ridiculously good. And I don’t think he’d punch me, either.