Rihanna and Chris Brown: Romance Rekindled, or Sales Ploy?

PHOTO: Chris Brown, left, and Rihanna, are shown in these file photos.
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They collaborated on a song together. They tweet back and forth. She insists on talking to him, public opinion be damned.

So are Rihanna and Chris Brown dating again ... or milking the speculation for all it's worth?

Brown's appearance on the remix of Rihanna's song "Birthday Cake" ramped up rumors that they've gotten back together after his horrific assault on her in 2009. They've kept the door open to interpretation. "The bottom line is that everyone thinks differently," Rihanna told the May issue of Elle, regarding those who've criticized her decision to have Brown on "Birthday Cake." She added, "I'm still going to do what I want to do."

There are advantages to firing up her fans, Us Weekly's Justin Ravitz said.

"I think she likes to flirt with danger. It makes her seem more mysterious," Ravitz told ABCNews.com. "Whether this reunion is real or imagined, it's going to keep them both in the public eye. I don't know if this is to boost album sales, I don't know if this is because she's not even 25 yet and she doesn't know what she's doing."

Her sales are through the roof -- as of January, Nielsen Soundscan said she had sold more digital singles than any other artist in history. It's also worth mentioning that Brown's fifth album is due to drop in May. Making nice with the ex he tried to force out of a moving car (read the police report) might seem like a nice way to boost downloads.

We've seen this kind of thing before. The history of Hollywood hookups is rife with examples of couples who came together -- or at least let relationship rumors linger -- at convenient times in their careers:

Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal

Early last year, Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal ended their three-month long "relationship" -- in quotes because their romance appeared to consist of little more than meet-ups over coffee and neither of their reps ever confirmed the two were actually dating.

Swiftenhaal came to be when she had an album to hawk ("Speak Now") and he had a movie to promote ("Love and Other Drugs"). Swift told the February issue of Vogue that her next album will be about an "earth-shattering, not recent, but absolute crash-and-burn heartbreak," which revived rumors that the two had an intense, whirlwind romance consisting of caffeine-fueled strolls through Brooklyn.

Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler

A brush of the bottom was all it took for gossip-mongers to put Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler together. In 2010, while the two were promoting "The Bounty Hunter," Butler put his hand on Aniston's rear end while posing for photographs in Paris. It didn't help that Aniston had previously gushed about Butler being "the best!" Within hours, anonymous sources opened up about the two "hugging and touching each other" on a cruise around the City of Light.

Could it be that they were huddling up because they were on a boat at night in Paris during early spring when temperatures can dip to around freezing? Sure, but that doesn't make for a juicy story.

Jessica Simpson and Billy Corgan

In December 2009, just before she and her father began a press push for her VH1 series, "The Price of Beauty," Jessica Simpson was linked with an unlikely paramour -- Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan. She's blond, he's bald. She's light and poppy, he's dark and alternative.

Over the course of a month, Simpson tweeted about a potential collaboration with Corgan and gushed about how she admired his "enlightening outlook on faith." They were photographed together, and sources spoke anonymously about them "getting to know each other." Then, as fast as Simporgan swept into the public consciousness, the "couple" fizzled. Perhaps Simpson -- her past relationships include John Mayer, Tony Romo and Nick Lachey -- wanted to prove she could date outside the hunky brunet bracket?

In any case, given her overwhelming oversharing about her pregnancy with fiance Eric Johnson, it seems she quickly got over whatever relationship may or may not have existed.

Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt

It's not unreasonable to think that Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt (of MTV's "The Hills") signed a pact in 2006 to embark on a relationship for the sole purpose of seeing how long the press would watch them. Through their wedding, her plastic surgery, their separation and their reconciliation, we have, albeit with the sort of bemused gaze used to watch a drunken David Hasselhoff trying to eat a hamburger. Win?

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