Artist Of The Year: Chris Brown
Bursting out of Tappahannock, Va., three years ago as a wide-eyed newcomer, Brown has rapidly morphed into a pop and R&B tower of power with a screaming fan base to match. Still riding high on the success of his 2007 sophomore Jive set "Exclusive," which has sold 1.9 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the singer/songwriter and dancer/actor is wrapping up a banner 2008.
Not only did he snare two more Grammy Award nominations—best pop collaboration (with Jordin Sparks on "No Air") and best male R&B vocal ("Take You Down")—he emerges as Billboard's top pop artist of the year. Brown chatted with Billboard about preparing his next album, what he's learned and how much he truly appreciates all those screaming fans.
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Why does "Exclusive" have so much staying power?
Because of the potential of the songs on the album and the collaborations. When I was recording the album, there were certain people I wanted to work with. I got Kanye West to do "Down." I also got to work with the Game, Lil Wayne and T-Pain. I had a great chance to do something in a different creative forum.
The reissued version of the album includes the hit "Forever." What was the inspiration for that?
I wasn't even planning on doing "Forever" for the repackage; it was going to be on my next album. But then I decided I wasn't ready to release a new album yet. So we gave the fans the rerelease with four new songs. The original inspiration for the song was to just make a dance record, a European kind of record that everybody all over the world could listen to. It turned out to be one of those big explosions.
Care to reveal any potential collaborations you're considering?
Right now, there's really nothing in the works. I'm going to take it one step at a time. We just put out another single, "Superhuman," with Keri Hilson. So we're going to ride that out and let "Exclusive" die down. Then I'm going to go away for a little while so people won't get tired of me [laughs]. After that I'll come back and give them some bangers.
Can we at least expect a duet from you and your girlfriend, Rihanna, on your next album?
Of course. I actually have a couple of songs written already that would be dope collaborations between me and her. And I'm writing for her new album now.
You're graduating tour-wise, heading out on your first European arena trek in January.
Yes. The other times I've performed there, the biggest venues I appeared in were 6,000- to 7,000-seaters. But now I'll be playing bigger arenas, 12,000- to 15,000-seaters, giving fans there a chance to see me the way the States have gotten to see me.
At KIIS Los Angeles' recent Jingle Ball, you added to your repertoire of grand entrances by descending headfirst from the rafters, hanging by invisible wires. How do you conceive these ideas?
I just try to have fun. I look at what other people are doing and try to do the opposite. I love comic books; my whole thing this time was to come down like Spider Man. I try to make my themes as animated, enjoyable and entertaining as possible.
What have been some of your weirdest fan encounters?
I recently took my cousins to a restaurant to celebrate their team winning a basketball game. An older lady, like probably late 40s, early 50s, just came up and started hugging on me. But she wouldn't let go. My security was trying to get her off. I had to push her off as I kept saying, "Get up off me." Then about a year ago, I was getting ready to go onstage. A pop-up toaster was situated at the middle of the stage. To get to the toaster, I had to go under the stage. While I was down there, I was met by a little surprise: two naked females. I think one of the guys working in my camp put them there to spook me [laughs].
Since 2007's "This Christmas," what other acting projects have you lined up?
I just finished a film called "Bone Deep" about bank robbers. It's coming in  and stars Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Zoey Saldana and T.I. Other than that, I'm looking at a lot of scripts. I haven't jumped on the basketball film, "Phenom," that was reported about in 2007. I'm just having fun reading and weighing my options.
You wrote "Disturbia" for Rihanna. What other outside writing projects have you done?
I actually did a couple of songs for the Jonas Brothers, but I don't know if they took any of them. And I did a couple of songs with the Backstreet Boys and the Pussycat Dolls. I've also been writing songs for several new girl groups who are coming out.
Beyond your contributions on Ludacris' and T-Pain's new albums, do you have any more upcoming guest appearances on tap?
I did [a song titled "Human"] with Tim McGraw. It's incredible. I wanted to do something more along the country line. That's a bigger and different audience for me. I also did a song with the Japanese group called the Teriyaki Boys out of Pharrell's camp.
And you have your first release on your own label coming out.
Yeah, my first artist is Scooter Smiff. He's on my CBE label through Interscope. His first single is "Head of My Class" and features me. Scooter, who just turned 13 years old, is one of my dancers. I will also have another label through Jive that's still in the works. Urban acts are the hardest to pick because of the competition level that's out there right now. You don't want to choose a novelty artist who's only going to give you one record.
Was the Doublemint ad campaign a win for you?
Definitely. I'd like to do more of that, as it was a big opportunity on the sponsorship side. I just took "Forever" and made it into a jingle. Then I got a little salty, because other commercials kind of copied off me. I was like, "Ah, you just took the whole commercial I did."
Plus you're also the face of Hasbro's "U Dance" game.
It works with motion sensors that you put on your sneakers, which pick up from a visual on your television. You have to dance in the same footsteps you see onscreen as the music plays. The more you heat up and do different dance steps, the more points you can earn—or lose horribly.
Any plans to take some time and go to college?
That is one of my aspirations. It's just finding the time to do it. But I don't know . . . on campus with girls screaming and wanting to tackle me or something? I might miss class or get into other trouble [laughs].