The 2009 Chronicles: Emotional Musical Rollercoaster

What a difference a year

makes.  Within the confines of 365 days, a couple’s personal drama

dominated headlines, a former group member became the target of child

molestation allegations, three singing legends reintroduced themselves to music

fans and a pop king took a permanent leave of absence.

The year: 2009. Incredible highs.

Devastating lows. All under a soundtrack of memorable tunes from various

sources.  And while we are all guilty of being starstruck, it was

’09 that reminded us that even our favorite celebrities could experience

the same types of problems we go through. Thus making them, as John Legend

says, “ordinary people.”  The higher your star is in the Hollywood universe, the harder you fall back into the

reality of being among the millions of folks who inhabit Planet Earth.

 

The Young and the

Abused

No one knew this any better than

Chris Brown. In 2008, the crooner was riding a wave of popularity with a

successful re-release of his hit album, Exclusive,

collaborations with a who’s who of rap heavyweights and a quietly

fledging relationship with one Robyn Rihanna Fenty. Fast forward to now and

Brown and Rihanna have split under surprising circumstances that involved a

violent incident on the night before the Grammy Awards in February.

That incident would have a definite

impact on Brown, who ultimately turned himself in to the Los Angeles Police

Department for beating his then-girlfriend in an anger-filled rage. The public

would discover just how severe the assault was in the weeks following as a

photo of Rihanna’s battered and bruised face turned up on TMZ.com.

August saw Brown being sentenced

to five years of probation, one year of domestic violence counseling and six

months of community service after pleading guilty in June to felony assault. In

addition, he was ordered to stay 100 yards away from Rihanna. For public

events, the ruling was modified to have Brown stay 10 yards away from his ex.

In an effort to rebuild his image,

the singer/actor issued repeated apologies and appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live in September and

ABC’s 20/20 in December.

Prior to this, Brown’s relationship with Wrigley Chewing Gum

disintegrated as the company expressed concerned over the singer’s

“serious allegations” and suspended an ad campaign that

would’ve featured him prominently in February. That same month, the

people behind the popular Got Milk? ads dropped Brown from its Body by Milk

campaign.

With his personal life was in

shambles, the entertainer fell back on his music with work on his album Graffiti. Despite a Lil Wayne assist on

the song “I Can Transform Ya”, radio stations were cautious in

playing Brown’s music as the public backlash continued. Nevertheless, Graffiti debuted at number seven on the

Billboard 200, selling 102,000 copies, a sign that Brown’s faithful fans

were standing with him.

Rihanna, on the other hand,

maintained her relationship with CoverGirl, as she remained silent while

seeking solace from family and friends. The songbird, who reappeared musically

with Jay-Z and Kanye West on Jigga’s hit single “Run This

Town,” broke her silence in as

she gave her side of the story to ABC’s Robin Roberts.

Although the revelations were painful to disclose, Rihanna cited a desire to

prevent young girls from experiencing similar physical abuse as the motivation

for coming forward.

Nevertheless, the beating’s

impact could be felt and heard on the entertainer’s latest offering, Rated R. From the cover of her single

“Russian Roulette” to the album’s

darker tone, it was clear that RiRi’s sunny persona from

the days of “SOS.” and “Pon de Replay” was gone. Still,

Rated R netted a number four spot on Billboard,

selling 181,000 in its first week of release.

Despite twitter support from fans

criticizing Rihanna, Brown deleted his Twitter account in December after

sounding off on retailers and the music industry for being

“blackballed” by stores that aren’t displaying or carrying Graffiti. While Brown and Rihanna’s ordeal made major

news, it was second only to the death of one of music’s most influential

stars.  

The Return of Old

Friends

While fans mourned the loss of one

music icon, two trendsetters returned with new material to enjoy. Armed with

the single “Pretty Wings,” Maxwell resurrected his relationship

with listeners, who had no trouble welcoming the song stylist back with open

arms. No further proof can be found than on Maxwell’s latest album, BLACKsummers’night, which scored a

number one debut with 316,000 copies sold in its first week. Couple that with

another hit tune (“Bad Habits) and six Grammy nominations and it’s

clear that Maxwell hasn’t missed a step.

Neither has Sade, who gave

followers a pleasant treat with the December release of her first single in

almost 10 years, “Soldier of Love.” The track is the first taste of

what’s to come on the songstress’ forthcoming album, which shares

the same name as the new  tune.

To say that having Sade back is

welcome is a real understatement. The “Soldier of Love” single,

which premiered on December 8, made radio history by becoming the highest debut

of the decade with a number 11 debut on the Urban Adult Contemporary chart as

well as the third highest all-time debut on the same chart. In addition, the

track’s number five debut on the Smooth Jazz airplay chart resulted in it

becoming the first ever vocal to hit number one on the Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown.

Needless to say, 2010 will be a great

year for Sade. With the Soldier of Love

album coming on February 8 and anticipation running high, it’s safe to

say that fans will have surefire way to bring the romance for Valentine’s

Day.

 

Say Hello to the

Singing Class of ‘09

If not with Sade, then with

newcomers such as Jeremih, Keri Hilson, Ryan Leslie and Melanie Fiona. Hilson

especially showed out this year with hits such as the Kanye West and

Ne-Yo-assisted “Knock You Down” and collaborations with R. Kelly (“Number

One”), Plies (“Medicine”), Fabolous “Everything,

Everyday, Everywhere”), Asher Roth (“She Don’t Wanna

Man”) and the

Clipse (“All Eyes on Me”).  All that and a couple of Grammy

nomination for Best New Artist and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (“Knock

You Down”). Keep driving Miss. Keri. Keep driving. ’09 was yours for

the taking.

After years of producing tunes for

other artists, Ryan Leslie came out of the shadows to release his self-titled

debut album and follow-up, Transition,

in 2009. Armed with the hit song “Diamond Girl” from the first

offering and “You’re Not My Girl,” the lead single from the second

album, Leslie made sure listeners had more than enough to take in.

With Fiona, there came a

comeuppance that finally came to the surface with a growing buzz and radio

airplay for the songs “Give It to Me Right” and “It

Kills Me.” And Jeremih…well let’s just say birthdays are a

little more freaky now thanks to his hit song, “Birthday Sex.” The

lead single, along with its follow-up “Imma Star (Everywhere We

Are),” marked the arrival of a new face with the potential to bring more

hits for the coming new year.  Part 2 deep dives into Michael Jackson’s death, R&B group turmoil and what 2010 holds.

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