Chris Brown’s newest album, Fortune, reached No.1 on the Billboard 200 on Wednesday, making it his second No. 1 record in a row. This is a commendable feat; few artists see their albums make it into Billboard’s coveted No. 1 spot once, let alone twice with back-to-back albums. However, what makes this truly incredible is the tumultuous career of Brown, who has gone from America’s Sweetheart to America’s Most Hated and back.
Flashback to 2009, photos of pop princess Rihanna’s battered face were everywhere. The world was stunned, asking what kind of ruthless man could do such a thing. Answer: her boyfriend, and R&B up-and-comer, Chris Brown. Both parties immediately went into defense mode as the media rained down scorn and judgment on the heads of the young couple. First, Rihanna tried to deny the claims that she had be physically assaulted, but the pictures told all. Since the denial strategy did not work, Brown tried to explain his actions by going on Larry King Live and admitting that he was raised in an abusive household. Although this move was supposed to garner sympathy for the star who “didn’t know any better,” it only made him more of a villain as America rallied on the side of Rihanna and she became the new face of domestic violence.
All of his friends and allies quickly distanced themselves from Brown, while he tried to regain his footing by focusing on his “music.” However, his next album, Graffiti, was a disappointment both musically and monetarily, leading critics to pronounce his career dead. As the docile dancer whose smooth moves were likened to the Michael Jackson, he was palatable to the public. However, after his altercation with Rihanna, Brown broke his promise to be saccharine and safe enough for even the blandest soccer mom to let her blond children buy his CDs and plastered his picture on the walls. Brown had become America’s worst nightmare; black, angry, and volatile.
As much as Americans hated everything that Brown had come to represent, however, they also love a great comeback story . To the chagrin of many, Brown was allowed to perform in the BET Awards tribute to Michael Jackson. The boy danced for his life, bringing the crowd to their feet and ending the performance in tears. This was just the beginning of what would eventually lead to his rise back to the top, as many felt that his heartfelt performance was his way of saying “I’m sorry” to America.
Whether his tears came from a place of great sorrow and remorse for what he had done, or just a result of sweat in his eyes from all his acrobatics, it doesn’t matter. America ate it up with a spoon and welcomed Brown back with open arms. Before he could say “plea deal,” Brown was featured on major tracks, eventually releasing his pièce de résistance and first No.1 album, F.A.M.E. Now with his second No. 1 album, Brown can rest a little easier. Despite the naysayers who said that his success has fluke, he’s on his way to becoming a commercially viable figure again.
Brown is not the innocent country boy we knew before, he’s now a grown man with the tattoos and criminal record to prove it. But that doesn’t mean we love him any less. Rather, Brown can exploit his role as one of America’s guilty pleasures, the (reformed) bad-boy.