While Chris Brown’s plea deal closed the legal chapter of his assault case, the ordeal will undoubtedly have an impact on the singer’s career. Brown has to serve 180 days of community labor, as well as five years’ probation, but his altered reputation will likely have more of an effect than the actual sentence.
But is [artist id="1961441"]Brown[/artist]‘s music career over?
“The plea works in his favor, because it takes the responsibility for his punishment out of his hands,” New York radio personality Miss Info told MTV News. “He can ‘pay his debt’ now — no more endless self-flagellation. A judge has given him a sentence, and he will follow it, gladly take that, and then he can say he deserves to move on, which is exactly what his lawyer said after the verdict. And the public will have an easier time moving on as well. I think it’s good that he didn’t plead no contest and that he did plead guilty. That says: ‘I’m not copping a plea. I’m admitting I was wrong.’ ”
(Look back at a timeline of the five months that followed Chris Brown and Rihanna’s altercation on February 8.)
Publicist Tamiko Hope, who counts [artist id="2815934"]Shawty Lo[/artist] among her roster of clients, thinks Brown will have a tougher time coming back.
“I do believe it would have been a much different story had [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist] testified,” Hope said, “especially given the damaging information that was leaked early on. But with almost five months having passed since this ordeal began and people having had time to marinate on what happened, as well as seeing both parties move on with their lives in the media, I think the general public is ready to see this come to an official close.
“With that said, I still think it will be a difficult and long road ahead for Chris Brown as he tries to regain order to his personal and professional life. He will have to prove himself to be real before he will be able to re-establish his career. This is someone who had a squeaky-clean public image, a young man who was a favorite amongst the Nickelodeon crowd and beyond, who now has a tarnished reputation, something that he will forever be linked to. People might not talk about it as much as time passes, but they never forget.”
It may be an especially long haul for Brown to recapture the big endorsements he was enjoying in the months before the incident.
“In the very immediate future, given the fact that Chris Brown pleaded guilty, there will probably be a slight negative effect on his team’s ability to secure endorsement deals and other spokesman-type opportunities for him,” said Shante Bacon, the former senior marketing director at Island Def Jam before co-founding the 135th Street Agency, a strategic-communications firm based in NYC. “Specifically on a corporate level, where marketers tend to shy away from anything remotely risky, there will be hesitation to align their brand with any artist with a felony assault on his record and make this artist the [possible] face of their brand.”
While the outlook for his endorsement opportunities looks limited, the impact of the case on Brown’s recording career could be less significant, experts told MTV News.
“He’s saying he wants to move on, but behind the scenes, he’s been moving on musically for a while,” Miss Info said. “He’s been recording with lots of big names. I think that the fact that Rihanna went public with Chris right after the incident is why it became OK for other artists. Maybe they figured, ‘Well, if she has forgiven him, then how can I judge?’ ”
“There are certain ‘socially responsible’ PR engagements that Chris can participate in that will improve his image amongst marketers and brand managers, i.e. speaking out against domestic violence, etc.,” Bacon said. “But the best possible thing he can do to rebound from this situation is to continue being a hit factory. The truth is that the single most important thing he will need to regain the trust and good favor of both fans and marketing executives alike is to keep feeding them undeniable hits. Look at Kobe Bryant’s ability to bounce back from the bad publicity of his 2003 sexual-assault case. The reason why Kobe was able to regain the trust and good favor of basketball fans and corporate marketers alike is by coming out on the court every night and outperforming 98 percent of the other players. When you perform like a champion and are the best at what you do, not only do you earn the respect of your fans, but you also earn their understanding that you are still human and flawed, despite the superhuman talent that you were blessed with.”
Natasha Eubanks, creator of celebrity-gossip blog TheYBF.com, agreed that Brown’s career isn’t beyond repair.
“It’s actually going to be OK for him,” she said. “He’s not doing jail time, he’s doing hard labor, so it’s not like, ‘OK, let me go talk to kids.’ He’s going to be cleaning stuff up, wearing an orange vest, which is crazy, but I think people are gonna be like, ‘He’s paid his dues.’ So he still has a lot of time. People are gonna forget about this in two weeks.
“He’s already talked about his new music — that song ‘Smash’ has already come out. That supposedly is gonna be one of his first singles. It’s kinda already happening. I don’t think it’s gonna be a ‘too soon’ thing. It may be too soon to start busting out with the whole album right now; he may wanna give it a few weeks. His fans are gonna be his fans. Even people on my Web site are like, ‘Oh, I’m glad he didn’t have to go to jail,’ or, ‘I’m glad he’s done with her.’ So it’s gonna be fine for him when it comes to his fans.”
Hope said she hopes Brown will speak out against domestic violence.
“I think he should use this as an opportunity to help other young people who are involved in domestic-violence situations, whether it be him doing speaking engagements at schools or actively participating in programs and/or organizations that are specifically related to domestic violence,” she said. “It would be great for him to also mentor young boys about how to properly channel their anger, with the help of experts in that field.
“In anything he does, it needs to be done out of sincerity — a need to really want to be better — because I think people can at least empathize with you when you’re trying to right a wrong.”
(Head here for some predictions on the impact the case will have on Rihanna’s career.)