Robert Barisford Brown (born February 5, 1969, Boston, MA), is an American R&B singer/songwriter, dancer, and actor. He's best known for his time with New Edition, his landmark 1988 release Don't Be Cruel and a tumultuous 14-year marriage to Whitney Houston. No, he didn't fuck anyone named Freddie (as far as we know).
Brown initially got his start as a founding member of New Edition in 1978. Brown contributed to several of their hits, including "Cool It Now", "Candy Girl," and "Mr. Telephone Man," which he also co-led. However, alleged jealousy of fellow N.E. member Ralph Tresvant's popularity, along with repeated incidents of singing out of turn and performing suggestive acts during concerts, led to Brown getting kicked out of the group in early 1986 by management.
Not long after his exit, Brown signed with his former group's record label MCA, which had promised him a solo deal if he decided to leave New Edition. Enlisting the help of New Edition manager Steven Machat, Brown wasted little time in recording his solo debut King Of Stage, released in late 1986. Despite a number-one R&B hit with the single "Girlfriend", the album tanked, making Brown's solo career look like a bust.
Brown laid low for a better part of a year working on what eventually became Don't Be Cruel. Working with storied hitmakers such as LaFace, and Teddy Riley, the album adopted the sound of a new style of R&B: New Jack Swing. Released on June 20, 1988 (directly competing with New Edition's Heart Break, which was released the very same day, no less), the album proved to be Brown's breakthrough. It peaked at number one on both the Billboard pop and R&B charts for six and eleven non-consecutive weeks, respectively,note and spawned five Top Ten pop hits, including the number-one single "My Prerogative". Brown was nominated for numerous American Music Awards, Grammys, and Soul Train Awards, and was also featured in Ghostbusters II and its soundtrack, giving him a sixth pop hit with "On Our Own", which was only stopped from reaching number-one by Prince's "Batdance" and Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting". In between all of this, Brown embarked on a 120-day world tour to promote his album. he quickly gained a reputation as R&B's resident bad boy, as he often simulated performing sexual acts during his live shows, which often got him in trouble with the police.
The early nineties continued to be busy for Brown. He contributed vocals to Ralph Tresvant's "Stone Cold Gentleman", Glenn Medereios' "She Ain't Worth It", which earned Brown his second number-one single, and Bell Biv DeVoe's "Word To The Mutha!", which reunited all of the original New Edition members on record; plus Johnny Gill, who had joined the group in 1987.
1992 saw the release of his third solo album Bobby, and his marriage to Whitney Houston, who he first met at the 1989 Soul Train Awards. Although Brown continued to find success on the charts, he was greatly overshadowed by his wife's success, not helped by her appearance in the 1992 film The Bodyguard. Both Brown and Houston's drug addictions began in this decade, and Brown soon became tabloid fodder for his violent tendencies towards Whitney. Despite the controversies, Brown continued to record and tour.
1996 saw an official New Edition reunion with their sixth album Home Again. Although the album and its singles were massively successful commercially and critically, the resulting tour proved disastrous thanks to years-old beef between Brown and the rest of New Edition flaring up once more, along with Brown struggling with alcoholism and other drug addiction during the tour. The lowlight of the tour came during a show in La Cruces, New Mexico, where Ronnie DeVoe attempted to pull Brown, who was deliberately extending his solo set, off stage. The resulting fistfight, which led to the singers' personal security guards getting involved and guns being drawn, led to the show being shut down. Both Brown and Michael Bivins would leave the tour not long after.
Things continued to slide downhill for Bobby in the following years. His fourth solo album Forever and its lead single "Feeling Inside" flopped hard, resulting in him getting released from MCA Records. The turn of the millennium saw him returning to contributing guest vocals for other artists and continuing to be tabloid fodder. After a brief time as reality stars in the show Being Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston filed for divorce in 2006, which was eventually finalized in 2007, ending her fourteen-year marriage to Brown.
Despite a second New Edition reunion and a fifth album (The Masterpiece), Brown had a particularly nasty Trauma Conga Line between 2011 and 2015. Both of his parents died within a year of each other (his mother in 2011, his dad in 2012), and Whitney had unexpectedly died in February 2012, six days after his 43rd birthday. During a New Edition concert in Mississippi, he broke down into tears during a performance when he got the news, shouting "I love you, Whitney!" To twist in the knife further, Bobbi Kristina, his only child with Houston, died three years later at the age of 22 in eerily similar circumstances. His son Bobby Brown Jr. was found dead in his home in November 2020.
Despite the ups and downs of his career and life, Brown is still highly respected for helping pioneer the New Jack Swing sound and helping shape Contemporary R&B into what it is now. Two miniseries about his life and career were released in 2017 and 2018: The New Edition Story and The Bobby Brown Story
- King Of Stage (1986)
- Don't Be Cruel (1988)
- Dance! ...Ya Know It! (1989, a remix album featuring hits from Don't Be Cruel and King Of Stage plus the Ghostbusters II single "On Our Own")
- Bobby (1992)
- Remixes In The Key Of B (1993, A remix album featuring tracks from Bobby, plus some new songs and a Every Little Hit megamix of Don't Be Cruel's singles.)
- B. Brown Posse (1993, a compilation album of Bobby and his friends performing brand new songs)
- Forever (1997)
- The Masterpiece (2012)
- Smoke (TBA)
- "Girl Next Door"
- "Don't Be Cruel"
- "My Prerogative"
- "Every Little Step"
- "On Our Own"
- "Rock Wit'cha"
- "The Freestyle Megamix/Every Little Hit Mix"note
- "She Ain't Worth It" (With Glenn Mederios)
- "Stone Cold Gentleman" (With Ralph Tresvant)
- "Word To The Mutha!" (A Bell Biv DeVoe release. Also the first song to reunite all the original New Editon members since 1986)
- "Humpin Around"
- "Good Enough"
- "Get Away"
- "That's The Way Love Is"
- "Something In Common" (With Whitney Houston)
- "Two Can Play That Game"
- "Feelin' Inside"
- "Thug Lovin'" (With Ja Rule)
- "Beautiful" (With Damian Marley)
- "Get Out The Way"
"Every little trope I make, examples will be there..."
- All Take and No Give: hoooo boy, "Don't be cruel". Not only is the girl a greedy entitled bitch, she treats him like shit as well, hence the title.
- Alternate Music Video: Two versions of "Humpin' Around" video are known to exist: The standard short version, and a rare recut extended version, featuring alternate shots and outtakes that were left out of the original video.
- Contemporary R&B
- '80s Hair: Bobby's Gumby-esque stair step haircut, as shown in the picture above. He got rid of it by 1992.
- He briefly brought back his high top fade during the Home Again tour, but cut it again after the drama following it.
- Badass Boast: "My Prerogative" was Bobby giving the middle finger to his detractors, telling them he was free to live his life how he pleased.
- The Cameo: He appeared in the music video for Bell Biv DeVoe's "B.B.D. (I Thought It Was Me)?" & the remix video for Ralph Tresvant's "Sensitivity".
- He also had a minor role in Ghostbusters II as the Mayor's doorman.
- Captain Ersatz: Boggy from Global Champion is largely based off of him, minus the attitude and singing.
- Changed for the Video: "Every Little Step", "That's The Way Love Is" and "Rock Wit'Cha" used remixes for their music videos.
- Epic Rocking:
- King Of Stage: "Girlfriend" clocks in at 6:16,
- Don't Be Cruel: The title track clocks in at 6:52, with "Roni" coming in at 5:58.
- Bobby: "Humping Around" runs for 6:18, "One More Night" at 6:28, and both "College Girl" and "Storm Away" run for 6:05.
- Gold Digger: The title track of Don't Be Cruel focuses on this. Bobby does everything for his girlfriend, but she always rebuffs him, only interested in his cash.
- I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Gender Flipped with "Every Little Step":"I can't sleep at night, I toss and turn
Listenin' for the telephone
But when I get your call, I'm all choked up
Can't believe you'd call my home
And as a matter of fact, it blows my mind
You would even talk to me
Because a girl like you is like a dream come true
A real-life fantasy"
- Let's Duet: "Something In Common" was a duet with his then-wife Whitney Houston. "I'm Your Friend" was a duet with Debra Winans.
- New Jack Swing: One of the early pioneers and one of its marquee artists.
- Piss Take Rap: While most New Jack rap guest raps usually aren't that remarkable to begin with (unless you're Heavy D), Bobby's rap verse on the remix of "Every Little Step" is cringeworthy.
- Record Producer: He produced the entirety of Forever by himself and produced Glenn Mederios' "Lovely Little Lady". He's best known for working with super producers such as Teddy Riley, L.A. Reid, and Babyface.
- Red Baron: "King Of Stage". Whitney Huston had also dubbed him the "Prince of R&B" and many fans know him as the "King Of New Jack Swing", a title he shares with Teddy Riley.
- Silly Love Songs: "Girlfriend" and "Every Little Step" are probably the most saccharine songs Bobby has ever performed, early New Edition material notwithstanding. "Every Little Step" is justified because the guy who wrote it had just entered a new relationship, and Bobby himself liked the song.
- Sucks at Dancing: Slowly inverted. Bobby was initially considered the worst dancer in New Edition. Don't Be Cruel and onward changed that, as he became one of the best dancers of the New Jack Swing era. Poor Johnny Gill ended up saddled with this rep when he joined New Edition.
- Traumatic Haircut: If the scene shown in The New Edition Story is to be believed, Bobby's famous "Gumby" haircut happened totally by accident. Apparently, during the filming of "Every Little Step"'s music video, Bobby's barber, who was too busy flirting with the girls at the shoot, accidentally cut a chunk of his flat top off at an angle. Bobby was pissed, but he only had a few minutes before the shoot was supposed to start, so his barber hastily cut the rest of his flat top to match the slanted piece.
- Bobby: (to his barber) Man, what the hell?! You got me lookin' like Gumby!
- Vocal Evolution: His singing voice got noticeably deeper and rugged as he got older, thanks to a combination of puberty, drug use, and a stroke caused by said drug use. This eventually hurt him, as he can't hit the high notes on some of his old songs anymore.
- His songs on New Editions Home Again, as well as Forever, seem to be a transition point. There are times on those albums where sounds the same as he did in the 80s, but his newer, more rugged voice was starting to creep in.
- White Void Room: The "Every Little Step" music video.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: Unlike most New Jack songs, Bobby wrote and performed all the raps himself on his songs.