When Vibe magazine shuttered back in June, there was little hope that the publication would be revived, considering the state of the magazine industry. But revived it was, acquired by a trio that included equity firm InterMedia Partners, Uptown Media Group and Blackrock Digital that together formed the new Vibe Lifestyle Network.
In late August Jermaine Hall was named editor-in-chief, a circle completed as Hall’s first job was working for the original Vibe. And he’s certainly set on making his mark: His decision to put Chris Brown on the cover for the relaunched magazine’s December issue (the new Vibe.com has already been up and running since August) is bound to stir up controversy. Brown’s ex-girlfriend Rihanna is currently doing the talk-show circuit on the physical altercation between her and Brown before the Grammys this February, and putting the convicted R&B star on the cover of Vibe can either be seen as tone-deaf and offensive, or provocative and challenging.
After all, Brown is still a celebrity, and as Nat Ives noted in AdAge, this cover “will show off the power that print can still wield,” since no amount of blog articles on Brown could generate this kind of reaction. Also consider: Vibe‘s best-selling cover of all time featured Rihanna and Brown together.
There’s no doubt Hall is out to generate buzz, although with cultural stereotypes of domestic abuse already rampant in the urban community which Vibe seeks to embody, the old adage of “No publicity is bad publicity” might not apply here. A powerful statement that will get a lot of attention, yes, but what message is the new Vibe really sending with a Chris Brown cover?