Things are looking up for Chris Brown. After being charged with physically assaulting fellow R&B star Rihanna, the 23-year-old singer underwent a tumultuous two-year period during which he was virtually blacklisted by peers and the record-buying public. Now he has a comeback album and a high-profile reconciliation with Ree-Ree, and Dubai is set to become another
stop on Brown’s path to recovery.
Twenty years old at the time, Brown was charged with physically abusing Rihanna in February 2009. Brown turned himself into a Los Angeles police station and Rihanna was taken to the hospital with facial injuries. Once the news spread, advertisers pulled commercials featuring Brown’s music, radio stations stopped playing his tracks and Brown skipped his performance slot at the Grammy Awards. His career was thought to be over.
Reportedly guided by a Hollywood-based crisis management team, four months later Brown took to YouTube (watch it here) to make a public apology. But critics slammed the move, labelling it insincere. A follow-up interview with Larry King, during which he claimed he couldn’t remember the assault, didn’t help his standing.
One would have thought a more reflective tone would be appropriate for his third album, Graffiti, released 10 months after the assault. Instead, Graffiti was filled with hedonistic club thumpers. The public was not impressed and the album limped into the charts.
In June 2010, Brown delivered an emotional musical tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards. Mourning for his idol and stung by continued criticism, Brown delivered a tearful performance that peers and the press viewed as his first signs of contrition.
A helping hand
The troubled fellow rapper TI reached out to Brown for 2010’s Get Back Up. The song’s hit status proved Brown was no longer toxic to the public and other artists showed up to collaborate with the singer, including Pitbull (International Love), Game (Pot of Gold) and T-Pain (Best Love Song).
A bad morning
In March last year, Brown underwent a tough live interview with Good Morning America. Upset at the line of questioning, Brown proceeded to trash his dressing room and left the New York studio shirtless. Brown later tweeted he was “so over” people bringing up his past.
Embracing the bad boy
Ironically, with the slate wiped relatively clean courtesy of the humility shown in his BET Awards performance, Brown reverted back to his trademark macho ways with his fourth album FAME (Forgiving All My Enemies). While audiences couldn’t stomach Graffiti’s salacious up-tempo cuts so soon after the assault, they welcomed FAME’s club bangers, including the chart-topper Beautiful People.
Brown used his new wave of popularity to propel him back on to the stage – where, fortunately, his feet did most of the talking. A packed Dubai audience savoured Brown’s fine blend of vocal and dancing talent when he performed at Dubai Festival City last December. Brown kept his audience interaction to a bare minimum, focusing solely on the songs. A good thing.
With his public profile somewhat restored, Brown's real salvation arrived earlier this year when it was revealed that not only were he and Rihanna on speaking terms but that they had collaborated on each other's solo albums. Rihanna appeared on Brown's Turn Up the Music and Brown appeared in a remix of her single Birthday Cake. The musical and personal reunion was complete when Brown and Rihanna duetted on Nobody's Business, a track from Rihanna's latest album, Unapologetic.
• Chris Brown is performing on Tuesday at Meydan Racecourse, Dubai. Tickets start at Dh350 from www.timeouttickets.com