Brown Is the New Gold

By Ali, Lorraine | Newsweek, November 26, 2007 | Go to article overview

Brown Is the New Gold


Ali, Lorraine, Newsweek


Byline: Lorraine Ali

He sings. He dances. He's in a new movie. Why an 18-year-old kid may be pop music's last great hope.

Teens are hanging out the third-story windows of the Los Angeles Leadership Academy charter school waving frantically. If they didn't look so ecstatic, you'd swear they were trying to escape from a blazing fire. But instead of yelling for help, they're screaming "Chris, up here! Chris!" The object of their flaming desire is singer Chris Brown, 18, who's posing for photos on the school's basketball court. The 6-foot-2 entertainer glides with amazing ease around the court -- rolling the ball across his shoulder blades from one fingertip to the other, busting dance moves that seem as natural as breathing, singing Elvis's "Jailhouse Rock" to the bouncing beat of the ball. He's a showman, the likes of whom we haven't seen since "Thriller"-era Michael Jackson. Which is why everyone in the school -- rockers, rappers, punks, R&Bers, dweebs and, yes, even teachers who claim to be wrangling students -- can't help but ogle him, and why one student on the third floor screams, "Billie Jean's not your lover, but I will be!" A teacher pulls her in and slams the window shut.

That's a switch -- Brown's long and somewhat odd association with Jackson usually opens windows for him. When the R&B/hip-hop/pop artist performed a medley of "Billie Jean" and two singles off his new record "Exclusive" at this year's Video Music Awards, it was the most- talked-about moment of the show -- aside from the unveiling of Britney's jelly roll. "Whatever Chris Brown just did reminded me of how I'm getting older," said Justin Timberlake, all of 26, after Brown's performance. The music world wasn't the only place that took notice of Brown's leap from teen heartthrob to budding superstar. Sony Pictures offered him a three-picture deal (not including his first feature role in "This Christmas," which opens Wednesday). Even Jackson came out of hiding to call Brown "a bright and shining star." Just like that, the King of Pop's dusty throne now has a foreseeable heir, which is no small feat in an ailing music industry that yields plenty of iTunes sensations and precious few icons. "Of course I think the comparisons are great and flattering," says Brown, smiling, flashing a row of straight teeth where there were recently braces. "Nowadays, we don't have a Michael like we did back in the day, or a James Brown, or an Elvis; artists people really go crazy for. I'd love to turn into that, but I only just started. …

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