Chris Brown: Will 'Graffiti' Take Him Back to The Top?
Nov. 18 was a typical Hollywood night-the breeze calmly whispered around the congested traffic on the streets.
But on this particular evening, one element of the atmosphere couldn't be forecast. The night marked the return of R&B wunderkindBut things looked brighter at the Hollywood stop. The line outside the Avalon extended down the block and wrapped around the corner. People of all ages and ethnicities, including parents who accompanied their underage daughters-some carrying homemade signs that read, "I Love You, Chris"-anxiously awaited the show's start and the Virginia entertainer to hit the stage.
"This tour is a trial balloon for Chris Brown and Jive Records," Grabowski says. "They are doing it in modest-sized venues so the crowds don't look small and so that it looks successful. He's donating the proceeds to two charities, which is smart. The wild card is how well he handles things moving forward. If he handles with grace and humility, he has a good chance of revitalizing his career. Social standards have changed over time and people are conditioned to forgive more easily than in the days of Ike and Tina Turner."
Another notable strategy that Brown's team is adopting that is smart but can be extremely risky, Grabowski notes, is that Brown is "attempting to ride Rihanna's publicity wave. Every time she makes an announcement, he makes one shortly after. She is popular now because she was victimized, but obviously when you talk about her, you think of him, so he is trying to benefit from her publicity."
But all the chess moves in the crisis management PR playbook run the risk of going awry. Adam Kluger, a PR specialist and founder/owner of executive and lifestyle branding company Adam Kluger PR, says that while Jive Records has a track record for saving the careers of troubled artists, like"Look at [football player] Michael Vick-he did something that was terrible as well, but he has been given another chance," Kluger says. "You have to own up to the mistake and try to rectify. Chris Brown seems to be moving in that direction. I wouldn't put it past him if he has a career resurrection."
Other artists have overcome trouble thanks to the popularity of their music. Shortly after Spears filed for divorce from Kevin Federline, she began a downward spiral, which eventually led her to be put on a psychiatric hold at UCLA Medical Center. But with the 2008 release of "Circus," which has sold 1.6 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, Spears is in the midst of a comeback. Her Circus tour has so far grossed nearly $108 million from 77 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore.
A FIRST STEP
If the Avalon stop is any indication, a favorable wind seems to be blowing in Brown's direction.
At around 9:40 p.m. after opening acts Scooter, the Rejects and New Boyz, Brown took the stage before a packed, 1,250-capacity venue to chants of "We want Chris."
While he brought out A-listers 50 Cent and Sean "Diddy" Combs for the New York stop of his 2007 18-stop Exclusive tour, which grossed $11.3 million and had five sellouts, according to Billboard Boxscore, this time he was accompanied by rising stars Keri Hilson and Ester Dean. "Did you all come out to party tonight?" he asked the energized crowd. "First off, I want to say thank you to each and everyone who came out tonight. Without you guys, I would be nothing. Now, let's party."
In the crowd were producer Polow Da Don and representatives from Jenesee Center and Best Buddies International, which he shouted out a number of times during his set.
For those outside the industry, the music remains the message, not Brown's conviction. "I lost some respect for him, but he has apologized and is working to change," said a 16-year-old African-American girl while she gazed at Brown as the singer flashed a smile at the supportive audience. "If he continues to make good music like on his first two albums, I will still buy his music."
"I'm still a fan. Despite what happened, you can't take away the fact that he's very talented," said a 21-year-old Caucasian male, who got tickets to the show as a birthday gift from his girlfriend. "All of what's happened to him will become part of his life experiences, which will be ammunition for his music. I don't think his bouncing back to where he was is going to happen in an instant, but I think he's going to stand good at the end of the day. I will buy the album when it comes out Dec. 8."
After hiring a grade-A legal team, which Brown clearly did-"He was facing jail time and got off," Grabowski says-the next step toward a full recovery is keeping fans like these in his good graces.
"It's definitely too early to tell, but Jive is making the right moves," Grabowski says. "We'll just have to wait and see how fans will respond. The kind of connection he has with fans is the most powerful determination of whether he can come back or not."