Chris Brown's 'GMA' outburst: Making headlines for the wrong reasons on release day
Chris Brown should be making headlines for his new album, “F.A.M.E.,” which hit stores Tuesday. Instead, he is plastered all over the news once again for non-musical reasons.
He went into his "Good Morning America" appearance Tuesday morning with intentions to discuss his music, and to perform, but his segment became tense when interviewer Robin Roberts pushed him to discuss the 2009 felony assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna, for which he pleaded guilty. Brown attempted to control the conversation, but Roberts pressed.
According to ABC, after the live interview an enraged Brown stormed into his dressing room and trashed it. Security was called, but a window in the room had already been smashed by a chair, sending glass onto the street below.
ABC News later released a statement that said: "As always, we asked questions that are relevant and newsworthy, and that's what we did in this interview with Mr. Brown."
Requests for a statement from Brown’s label, Jive, went unreturned on Tuesday, and a previously scheduled Times interview regarding Brown’s comeback with Tom Carrabba, the executive vice president and general manager of Jive Label Group, was canceled Tuesday morning.
The reports of Brown’s temper are a far contrast from what the singer displayed during a recent evening inside Record Plant Studios in Hollywood. Boyish grin fixed on his baby face, he made sure to extend his hand to greet every person who walked into the room before plopping himself in front of a wide mixing board next to an engineer as he was about to unveil a sample of his upcoming album to press and industry insiders.
The pop-R&B singer and showman was eager to play the new music, no longer interested in discussing the controversy.
“This is the most sincere song I could do,” Brown said before introducing “Beautiful People,” a Benny Benassi-produced, synth-heavy Euro-pop-infused single on which he pleads for listeners to discover the beauty inside and not let others bring them down.
He flashed a smile when he talked about the new tracks on the album, and was in a good mood throughout the night, joking and laughing with his crew. If he was worried whether the disc would help position him back at the same level of success he enjoyed before the Grammy-evening incident with Rihanna two years ago, he didn't show it.
Entertainment publicist Courtney Barnes, who heads his own agency, has helped reinvigorate controversy-plagued stars like Brandy and Ron Artest. Speaking as observer on Brown's situation, he had said before Tuesday's incident that his talent remains strong enough to salvage his career. “Not that time has healed his situation ... but to be honest with you, nobody else has come along since he’s had his trouble that is viable enough to take his spot as the premiere R&B male crossover singer of this generation.”
Barnes said the record is the latest in a string of savvy musical decisions Brown has made. But when it comes to his public image, Barnes said there is still some work to be done.
He suggested Brown limit print press –- which he largely has -– and stick to high-profile TV performances, though that suggestion, made prior to Tuesday's "GMA" appearance, may have changed. Brown declined repeated interview requests for this story, and there's no word on whether a scheduled appearance on “Dancing With the Stars” next week is still on. On Monday, he performed on BET’s “106 & Park,” where the girls chanted his name.
“The mistake he made with Larry King was he was there for an hour. When you give a person who’s that young and in that type of trouble an hour with an experienced journalist, you’re asking for trouble,” Barnes said. “He would have been far more successful had he done 15 minutes. There’s just too much room for too many follow questions where you can end up looking really, really bad.”
The past year has shown signs of musical recovery for the 21-year-old.
Instead of retreating after his first post-incident album, 2009’s “Graffiti” underperformed on both the charts and with critics -- it ranks as the lowest-reviewed album of that year, according to aggregator Metacritic.com, and has sold a mere 316,000 copies to date (not the multi-platinum success of its two predecessors). Brown issued three mixtapes last year, including “Fan of a Fan,” which yielded hit singles “Deuces” and “No BS.”
“Deuces,” a simmering, downtempo R&B kiss-off immediately linked to Rihanna, reached No. 1 on the R&B/hip-hop singles chart, where it spent 10 weeks. The track, which snagged a Grammy nomination -- one of three he received this year -- was included on “F.A.M.E.”
“The fanbase has come back. Will it put him to where exactly he was? Not yet,” said disc jockey Big Boy, who hosts a syndicated morning radio program on KPWR-FM (105.9). “People are still standoffish toward him. It’s a little bit different.”
A string of misfires in the past few months have upset the delicate balance that Brown and his representatives have attempted to reach in their interactions with the public and press.
In January, Brown got into a heated Twitter feud with former B2K singer Raz B in which he shot off a homophobic slur. Then a naked photo of Brown leaked weeks before the album’s release. And now there's the “GMA” dustup. But for a singer already being handled with kid gloves -- he’s been known to hang up on radio interviewers if he doesn't like a question -– will this string of misfires hurt the album?
“In more recent times he’s let the music speak for itself. A hit record will revive anything,” said DJ Skee, a disc jockey for KIIS-FM (102.7) who has a weekly show on Sirius XM satellite radio. “You have to give people second chances. We all make mistakes. Granted, it’s not OK what he did. I don’t think people will forget. But you can’t control that. You have to just step in that future.”
In the wake of Rihanna incident, Brown pleaded guilty to a felony assault charge and brokered a plea bargain that placed him on five years of supervised probation and 180 hours of community service in his home state of Virginia. He completed a court-mandated yearlong domestic-violence counseling course, and a restraining order banning Brown from coming within 50 yards of Rihanna for five years has since been lifted.
Instead of cramming “F.A.M.E.” -- an acronym for both “Fans Are My Everything” and “Forgiving All My Enemies” -- with redemptive pleas, he’s doing what made him a superstar six years ago: commanding the dance floor. Forced to ditch his boy-next-door image -- both age and a felony court case lent a hand in that -- he’s settled into this harder-edged, sexual lothario role. “F.A.M.E.” blends together R&B, pop, hip-hop, reggae and Europop sounds. While the lead single, “Yeah 3x,” struggled to make an impression, the follow-up “Look at Me Now” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 11.
Jermaine Hall, editor in chief of Vibe magazine, who gave Brown his first post-incident cover, said Brown’s success on the charts is “a testament to his talent,” and despite the negativity he’s bound to rebound.
“It says a lot when people leave you for dead,” Hall said, “and you’re able to pick yourself up.”
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photos: Top, Chris Brown is shown on the set of ABC's "Good Morning America" with host Robin Roberts. Credit: Ida Mae Brown / ABC / Reuters. Middle, Chris Brown. Credit: Kenneth Cappello