(June 29, 2019). Are & Be singer Chris Brown released another album Friday. It’s his ninth studio set and it’s called Indigo.
As one of the highest profile releases that day, and with 32 new songs including some features by several big name collaborators like singer H.E.R., rappers Drake and Nicki Minaj, pop star Justin Bieber and others, it stands a good chance of debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in a soft market. It’ll definitely top the Billboard R&B album chart dated July 13 (the first one for which it’ll be eligible).
Which brings up an interesting observation. Excluding rappers, the most successful artists on the R&B/Hip-Hop singles charts during this decade have been No. 1 Rihanna and No. 2 Chris Brown. Right behind them are Beyoncé, Trey Songz, The Weeknd, Usher, and Robin Thicke. (Remember, this data takes into account chart performance from January 2010 to the present, so artists who’ve emerged in only the past few years are at a slight disadvantage to those who’ve been charting since the beginning of the decade.)
And for those wondering where pop superstar Bruno Mars ranks, most of his songs didn’t crossover from pop to R&B until recently, with 2017’s “That’s What I Like” being his biggest R&B single.
That means Chris Brown has been the decade’s top male artist on the R&B charts between January 2010 and today.
And this isn’t just some fanboy’s claim, in fact, I’m not even a fan. I can’t get past the misogyny in most of his lyrics, especially in light of his violent past with women.
But my opinion of his character and – by extension – his music, can’t be conflated with an objective review of the man’s career accomplishments. Besides, if millions of people can excuse the misogynistic behavior of the man sitting in the White House today, certainly a pop star and his fans can’t be expected to be held to a higher standard, can they?
Plus, the facts are the facts. And Breezy (as his fans know him), has the numbers to back up his standing – numbers that haven’t been matched by any other male R&B singer this decade.
Consider: when Indigo debuts in the top ten next week – and it will – it’ll be Brown’s ninth top-ten album…out of nine tries. That means every one of his albums have reached the top ten on the Billboard 200, and all five this decade have reached No. 3 or better – with two of them 2011’s F.A.M.E. and 2012’s Fortune hitting No. 1.
All but one of his albums have been certified platinum or multi-platinum (even his last one, the double-album, 40-track-having, 2017 release Heartbreak on a Full Moon went platinum). The lone exception? The 2009 release Graffiti, which was his first album after the violent beat-down of ex-girlfriend Rihanna earlier that year.
Naturally, Brown, who pleaded guilty to felonious assault and served a five-year probation plus community service, received unanimous panning from critics for Graffiti, pans that in hindsight might have amounted to no more than emotional reactions from a community still shaken by the horrendous acts in Brown’s personal life. With a No. 7 peak and sales at less than 400,000 units, Graffiti remains Brown’s lowest-performing album.
But that was 2009.
Indeed, Brown began this decade on a high note, starting with the 2010 BET Awards where he performed a memorable dance tribute to the late Michael Jackson, who had died a year earlier and for whom BET and Brown couldn’t align on a tribute in the short time between Jackson’s death and the 2009 awards, especially after the Brown/Rihanna incident.
But the 2010 tribute was the performance of a lifetime for Brown (he even broke down on stage and cried at the end) and it endeared him to many who had seen the previous year’s Rihanna incident as just one mistake in an otherwise clean career for a man who was only 19 when it happened. Plus Rihanna’s brief reconciliation with her abuser was viewed as an act of forgiveness that signaled to others – particularly those in the industry and Brown’s fans – that they should perhaps try and do the same.
For the most part, his die-hard fans have forgiven him. His next two albums after Graffiti – F.A.M.E. and Fortune – both reached No. 1. And even though his singles chart game has been less lucrative in the 2010s, with his current top-10 “No Guidance” with Drake being his first top-10 since “Loyal” five years ago, many of the songs have gone platinum or multi-platinum in sales/streams.
Those numbers suggest that the only thing holding Brown down on the charts is lack of radio play, which is likely the result of Brown’s reputation and pressure from station sponsors who view continued support of the troubled artist as a liability. Fans on the other hand are still buying or streaming his stuff in droves.
In light of the Rihanna incident plus the numerous run-ins with the law and the media that Brown has had since, the fact that he still has a successful music career is astounding to many, particularly in the #MeToo era when men with similar track records are supposedly being held accountable for acts that predate even his. It has even ended the careers of some, including – famously – former NFL running back Ray Rice, who, like Brown, was at the height of his career when he was filmed knocking out his girlfriend in an Atlantic City elevator in 2013.
Yet the fact remains that, unlike Rice, Brown is not only continuing to thrive ten years later, but will likely be named in Billboard as the top male R&B artist of the decade when the data is released at the end of this year.
And for Breezy, who just celebrated his 30th birthday, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight in the 2020s.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
You can also register for free to receive notifications of future articles by visiting the home page (scroll up!).