Brown didn’t get there by climbing the steep and winding road toward forgiveness. He did it by racing down the five-lane superhighway toward forgetness.
“That’s part of our culture, forgive and forget,” says Angie Ange, a DJ at WKYS (93.9 FM) who interacts with scores of young Brown fans on a daily basis. “And a big part of our culture is to just forget.”
But Brown hasn’t always made forgetting easy. He’s given numerous apologies for attacking his then-girlfriend but has just as frequently squandered the world’s goodwill on Twitter. In the realm of social media, Brown doesn’t seem haunted by his past so much as annoyed by it. And he’s rallied his fans — who proudly identify themselves as members of “Team Breezy” — into an us-against-them mentality.
“And when it’s us against them and it’s a young, controversial artist against traditional media, the young artist is going to win,” says Howard Bragman, a public relations guru specializing in celebrity damage control and the vice chairman of Reputation.com. “I’ve read a lot about young people and their morality — they’re not very judgmental. You can get away with a lot. Their biggest issue is respect. If they feel that somebody was dissed or disrespected, they will rally to his side.”
That dynamic was on full display in February after Brown’s 2011album “F.A.M.E.” won a Grammy for best R&B album. With the music industry gathered under one roof, Brown simply thanked God and Team Breezy. Then he signed onto Twitter.
“Then right before the worldseyes a man shows how he can make a Big mistake and learn from it, but still has to deal with day to day hatred! You guys love to hate!!! But guess what???” Brown wrote. “HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate [expletive] OFF!”
His tweets were quickly deleted, but he had made his point.
You’d never have seen this coming back in 2005 when Brown first scaled the charts. A fresh-faced, fresh-voiced 16-year-old from Tappahannock, Va., he pop-locked his way toward stardom, quickly becoming a national heartthrob and a radio staple. In 2008, after months of canoodling too close to the paparazzi, Brown announced that he was dating another young pop sensation, Rihanna.