NEW YORK (AP)— Two years ago, the Grammy Awards appeared to mark the end of Chris Brown’s career. This year, it is serving as a new beginning.
Life for the multiplatinum singing sensation dramatically changed on the eve of music’s biggest night in 2009, when he assaulted then girlfriend Rihanna and both were forced to bow out of the ceremony. In the months that followed, he saw his reputation tarnished, he had to plead guilty to a felony and his comeback CD, Graffiti, was a commercial disappointment.
But with the success of his brush-off anthem Deuces, three nominations at this year’s Grammys (including best contemporary R&B album), an upcoming CD and an Australian tour in April, the focus on Chris Brown has returned to his music, without adding the Rihanna-prefix.
“We feel good now that everybody’s talking about his music, which is exactly what Chris’ intention is,” said Tom Carrabba, the executive vice president and general manager of Jive Label Group, Brown's home label since he released his first album at age 16. (Brown’s representative said the singer would not be interviewed for this story and, as of now, would not be attending the awards).
Carrabba says Brown has a newfound confidence, which he believes is the reason for the singer's current success.
“I think when he was a little bit younger he was still trying to find his way a little bit and fine-tune his craft, but I think over the last two years he's absolutely developed a confidence and is very secure in his decision-making process,” Carrabba said.
Brown, now 21, is serving five years of probation after pleading guilty to felony assault for the attack on Rihanna in the early morning hours before the 2009 Grammys. The Virginia native was commended in November for completing more than one-third of the required 180 days of community service and for almost finishing his domestic violence counseling.
Over the past year, Brown has released a flurry of music. After Graffiti, released in December 2009, failed to create a buzz for the singer like his past albums, Brown put out various mixtapes. One of those, Fan of a Fan, a collaboration with rapper Tyga, featured Deuces, a mid-tempo tune that hit No. 1 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart for nine weeks; the platinum-selling single peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100 chart. The music video for the song was No. 1 on BET’s Top 100 videos of 2010.
Brown, who has acted in movies such as the popular Stomp the Yard, also hit No. 1 at the box office last year as part of the ensemble cast in the heist film Takers, which also starred rapper T.I. and Idris Elba.
Deuces is up for best rap/sung collaboration at the upcoming Grammys, where it will compete with Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind, Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie and B.o.B’s Nothin’ on You, songs that are all up for the coveted record of the year award and had been No. 1 pop hits in 2010.
Carrabba says the Grammy nominations are “another step in the right direction for Chris Brown.” Graffiti, Brown's third album which has only sold 336,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, is one Carrabba says will be more appreciated in the future.
“We always thought one day when Chris is where he belongs, people will go back to that record and say, ‘You know what, this is a record that was overlooked,’” Carrabba said. “We’ll see in time, but right now that’s behind us and we're kind of looking forward.”
Other tracks have also helped keep the focus on Brown’s music. The Euro-dance tune, Yeah 3x, is a Top 15 pop hit, while the bedroom groove No Bull is currently No. 3 on the R&B charts. A new album, F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies), is due out this spring.
Jive hopes his new CD will put Brown back on the path to phenomenal success that he blazed when he made his debut as a teen.