Music News

Teen Dream

R&B heartthrob Chris Brown admits to having dated at least one older woman in his day, which isn't hard to believe. He just turned seventeen, and given the blockbuster success of his eponymous debut CD and its irresistible lead single, "Run It!," there's an enormous number of potential candidates. Nevertheless, Brown claims that most of the fully grown females seeking him out aren't interested in personal snuggling.

"The my-mom's-age kind of women?" he asks. "Basically, they try to throw their daughters at me."

Behavior such as this sounds more than a little creepy. But rather than dwelling on the R. Kelly-esque downside of parents who'd willingly offer their children to celebrities, Brown puts a wholesome spin on the phenomenon. "The way I look at it," he says, "it's like them being okay having their daughter being with a successful, stable young gentleman."

That's a mighty smooooth line, and perfectly in keeping with the charming persona that's catapulted Brown from Nowheresville (or, in his case, tiny Tappahannock, Virginia) to MTV stardom -- a distance he traveled in near-record time. Although his mother, Joyce Hawkins, began promoting him to managers and label types when he was just thirteen, he had little in-concert experience prior to signing with Jive Records. Indeed, the 300 industry types who watched Brown sing at a May 2005 showcase constituted what was then his largest audience -- and before the appearance, he had to be coached about practically everything, including the right way to hold a microphone.

"In the studio, the microphone is propped, so you don't even have to touch it," he notes. "But on stage, you can't cuff the mike, like a lot of rappers do, because it's going to sound all mumbled up and distorted. You've got to hold your hand on the long part of the mike, but you can't cuff the round part."

Apparently, small groups intimidate Brown more than throngs do. Since hitting it big, he's sung before huge crowds, including 65,000 or so fans at an Indianapolis festival. Even so, he says the only appearance that made him more nervous than the 2005 showcase was a Stevie Wonder tribute in December, when he botched the words to "I Was Made to Love Her" in front of the man himself.

Fortunately, such confessions only make Brown seem more endearing, as do accounts of the daily tutoring sessions that his mom insists upon. "I just took my finals," he reports, "but I haven't heard how I did." Brown adds that his favorite subject is math -- yet another bit of information guaranteed to endear him to those American moms who'd prefer that their little girls lust after positive role models.

Of course, some adults of the feminine persuasion would like to educate Brown in different subjects. He guesses that the oldest woman who's propositioned him for herself, not a daughter of appropriate age, "was probably about 28." Still, he resisted the temptation to enroll in this particular class, because "I don't really try to grow up too fast."

No doubt an army of volunteers will be eager to lend a hand the instant he changes his mind.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts