SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Keri Hilson called her new album No Boys Allowed, but a collaboration with one young man has been drawing attention. The pop-R&B singer has become the most prominent female artist to collaborate with Chris Brown since his arrest in 2009 for attacking his then girlfriend Rihanna. The album cut One Night Stand is her second duet with Brown, following Superhuman, recorded in 2008.
"I didn't want to be one of those women who is so unforgiving and be yet another person who is slapping him on his hand and crucifying him,'' Hilson said in an interview. "You have to be allowed back into good graces, meaning, 'Let me earn my trust back to you, let me earn my respect back.' And Chris has done that. He's crawled back into the public eye. … Women were so unforgiving. And I understand why. I don't condone what he did. But I also believe in second chances.''
Hilson, 28, calls the 21-year-old Brown a friend and said she wants the public to separate his mistakes from his music. Despite repeated apologies and atonement-focused songs, Brown struggled to connect with pop audiences in 2010, releasing a series of mixtapes online in hopes of gaining traction, finally finding success with the No. 1 R& B hit Deuces. Although Brown was recently nominated for three Grammys, Hilson blames unfair news coverage for his struggles.
"When you're an entertainer, I don't believe that anything you do in your personal life should undermine your creative efforts in any way,'' she said. "And I learned that from Kanye (West). I learned that from watching what happened to R. Kelly. I learned that from Michael Jackson, even. I think it's sad that the media does that, makes an artist feel worthless, like they have nothing to give because they made a mistake.''
Hilson herself has faced a minor fan backlash for taking the already sexy image cultivated around her first album, In a Perfect World … to a new level. She shows more skin than ever in the video for the racy song The Way You Love Me and says she's noticed online criticism.
"I'm OK with the reaction that the video is getting. I'm perfectly OK with it,'' she said. "I'm a woman. I'm not a child. Some music that I make, I want children to hear and see. Other music that I make is for women. You know, it's for adults. That is where that video lives. That is what I wanted women to take out of it. I don't do music about the fronts that we put up. I do music about the real [things] we go through, the real ways we feel. And, every now and then, I don't want to be cuddled. You know?''
No Boys Allowed, which also features West and production from Timbaland and Polow Da Don, was released Tuesday.