Music News

Chris Brown, the saddest Michael Jackson impersonator

Chris Brown is sad, and it's not because he cried at the BET awards on Sunday. While performing a tribute to Michael Jackson, the singer and alleged Rihanna-beater broke down and wept during a rendition of Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," leading many, as noted in the CBS report above, to wonder if the tears were more about Brown's own personal problems than his inner anguish at Jackson's passing. As it turns out, it was probably neither. More along the lines of a crass, calculated publicity stunt.

The dude, of course, has plenty to be sad about. Since word came out in February of last year that Brown allegedly beat the bejesus out of Rihanna -- and the tawdry plea bargain to two felony counts that followed -- he's been able to avoid jail time, but not serious career damage.

Often times all press is good press, but not so much in this case. Like the very man to whom he paid tribute on Sunday, Brown crossed over the line of generally acceptable bad celebrity behavior (the odd DUI or cocaine charge) and into the realm of just disturbing.

And Brown's handling of the ensuing popularity crisis didn't do him any favors. Take, for example, his half-assed public "apology" -- hastily filmed in his lawyer's office -- where Brown refers to the beating as "the incident in February" and apologizes not to Rihanna, the alleged recipient of the bludgeoning, but to his fans. "I grew up in a home where there was domestic violence," Brown explains.

It was a somewhat unexpected extension of public grace that allowed Brown to even perform at all at Sunday's BET awards. And, honestly, he did a bang-up job -- his spangle-glove getup and spot-on moonwalk were so flawlessly executed he could have been channeling Jackson himself from beyond the grave. He could have taken that for what it was worth and given folks a little reminder that, yeah, he's not perfect, but he is a damn fine entertainer.

But then with the tears.

Here's what happened: First, Brown's weeping was much commented upon, as expected. Then, out of left field, R&B singer and Brown confidant Lloyd revealed to something that came off a little troubling. "I told [Brown], man, you gotta get up there. You gotta cry; you gotta really show your heart to the world."

To be fair, Lloyd clarified on his blog yesterday that he "never told [Brown] to go onstage and cry," even though that's precisely what he did say. "I told him as a friend," Lloyd continued, "that people hadn't really seen him be vulnerable about his situation last year [with Rihanna]. I thought he was holding back and needed to let that emotion out. Him crying at the BET Awards was real, I could feel it."

Except for most people, when they let their emotion out, do it in the privacy of their homes and less than a year and a half after the thing that caused them to cry happened.

But whether the tears were real or not, it was an over-the-top display that invited speculation as to his not-necessarily pure motives, and it's just one more example of Brown's apparent compulsion to ingratiate himself to a skeptical public instead of just singing and dancing, like he did before he made a series of terrible mistakes -- and like he still does, as we saw on Sunday, really well. Instead he cries. He grovels. He panders.

And that's just sad.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte