Chris Brown was the water-cooler topic of the day after his stirring Michael Jackson tribute at the 2010 BET Awards on Sunday night, when he broke down in tears as he attempted to sing "Man in the Mirror." The embattled R&B singer reminded the world of his talent as he re-created MJ's magical dance steps and sang a medley of his songs.
But Brown's onstage breakdown divided viewers: Was he emotionally overwhelmed by the moment, or were his tears a publicity stunt designed to garner favor after his assault of former girlfriend Rihanna?
"You forget what a good performer he is. I think over the past year, so much has been overshadowing that, from his album not selling to him claiming record stores are boycotting him to him being denied entry into Europe," Alicia Quarles, Associated Press entertainment editor, told MTV News. "You forget that he's a triple threat. The breakdown, I was skeptical of it. I didn't know if it was genuine, if he was reflecting on everything he had gone through or if it was a PR opportunity. Either way, it was good for him.
"It was supposed to be Prince's big night, and El DeBarge made a comeback, Kanye West — but no one is talking about any of them," Quarles continued. "Everybody is talking about Chris Brown, and it's about doing something positive for once."
Since Brown assaulted Rihanna, he's tried to apologize and relay his remorse, but the singer stumbled in an interview with Larry King when he said he couldn't remember much about the altercation. He told MTV News he felt ashamed of his actions, but no matter what he said, he found himself still reviled by many. After his teary performance of "Man in the Mirror," however, the tide of support seemed to turn his way.
"I think people didn't want to hear words from him. I don't think they wanted to hear the words 'I'm sorry,' " explained Erik Parker, who wrote a cover story on Brown for Vibe. "He couldn't say anything enough; he had to prove it. For people to accept it, they had to first make him pay for it somehow, meaning put him through the wringer and get out all the anger they feel toward him. But he was unable to articulate how truly sorry he felt with just his words."
Parker recalled how upset Brown was that he was unable to perform at last year's BET Awards, which occurred just days after Jackson's death. He said it was fitting for Brown to find some sort of salvation one year after he would have originally had a chance to redeem himself onstage.
Billboard magazine's Gail Mitchell was in the house for Brown's performance and said from the time he stepped onstage to the time he exited, the crowd was on its feet. The way Mitchell sees it, Brown has already admitted his fault and is diligently serving his community-labor service as part of his punishment for his actions, so she doesn't understand why the singer isn't allowed to move on more than a year after the assault.
Brown explained himself perfectly, Mitchell said, when he accepted the Fandemonium Award later in the evening: "When he said, 'I let you down earlier ... I won't let that happen again,' I think that says it all."
What did you think of Chris Brown's performance and breakdown? Let us know in the comments.