Evolving in the public eye, Chris Brown has gone from teenaged heartthrob to pop music megastar to vilified brute and then repentant sinner. At the heart of his image downturn is the 2009 assault of then girlfriend, Rihanna, which showed a darker side to the talented singer/dancer/actor. Brown’s subsequent apologies, paid debt to society in the form of community service and an emotional performance of Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror” at the 2010 BET Awards seemed to have almost wiped his slate clean—that is, until last month’s Good Morning America appearance. Following an awkward and defensive interview with GMA co-host Robin Roberts, Brown threw a tantrum backstage, smashing a window at ABC’s Times Square studio in the process. Though Brown has since apologized for his behavior (again), many speculate that he’s running out of second chances and that’s bound to hit him in the pockets. BlackEnterprise.com takes a look at how all the drama has or hasn’t affected the troubled star’s money.
Brown’s newfound bad boy image proved to be a detriment to his music career when he released his third studio album, Graffiti, in December 2009, less than a year after the Rihanna assault incident. Though the LP debuted at a respectable No. 7 on the Billboard 200, it was panned critically and sold a dismal 102,489 its first week. Graffiti is Brown’s worst performing album, selling about 341,000 copies to date domestically. These numbers were in sharp contrast to the success of Brown’s two previous efforts, his 2005 self-titled debut and 2007’s Exclusive, both of which circled the two million mark. However, Brown’s latest project F.A.M.E., debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s 200 chart with approximately 270,000 units sold—ahead of media darlings like Jennifer Hudson and British chanteuse Adele. Despite Brown’s GMA meltdown taking place days before the album’s release, if his first week sales are any indication, he has a forgiving and loyal fan base willing to stick with him as long as he puts out good music.
At the height of his popularity, Brown was selling out arenas across the map and sharing stages with a who’s who of the music industry. In the wake of his guilty plea for assaulting Rihanna, however, things were much different. In preparation for his 2009 comeback album Graffiti, Brown announced his “Fan Appreciation” tour, which would cater to his loyalist in small venues in key markets, but ticket sales were sluggish. Many seats were left empty in the 4,000-seater venues he performed at, illustrating how the scandal had impacted his drawing power. Brown’s stage money was further affected by the fact that his guilty plea led UK officials to deny entry into the country for the European leg of the tour last summer.
Before his 2009 domestic violence incident, Brown was poised to make a lot of money from his relatively clean-cut image as a celebrity spokesperson. In 2008 chewing gum maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. tapped the pop star for a clever campaign in which his hit single “Forever” was reworked into a song inspired by Wrigley’s Doublemint gum “Double Your Pleasure” jingle for an undisclosed amount. “Everything [Brown’s] done with ‘Forever’ represents the brand and it fits our brand personality for Doublemint,” said Wrigley’s VP for North American gum marketing at the time, Paul Chibe. He’d wind up eating (chewing?) those words after allegations of violence perpetrated by Brown arose. It wasn’t long before Wrigley announced their suspension of the campaign. Brown also had Body by Milk—the people behind the popular “Got Milk” and milk moustache ad campaigns—drop him from their celebrity roster. It’s safe to say companies aren’t too keen on attaching themselves to Brown’s tarnished brand as before.
BOX OFFICE BUCKS
Parlaying a music career into an acting career is all the rage for entertainers these days and Brown is no exception. He made his film debut in 2007’s Stomp The Yard, which grossed over $61 million at the box office. Later that same year Brown appeared prominently in the family drama This Christmas, which pulled in $49 million in ticket sales. Although filmed prior to Brown’s domestic violence incident and held in limbo for over a year, Takers proved to be another cinematic win for the embattled star. Not only was Brown part of the ensemble cast, he was also one of the film’s executive producers. Released last August, the film earned the No. 1 spot at the box office its opening weekend with $20 million in ticket sales, before grossing more than $57 million overall. Now, if only Brown could keep all of his drama on screen his brand would be in even better standing.