UPDATED, MARCH 22, 3:03 P.M.: Cris Brown allegedly had a violent outburst after his Good Morning America appearance this morning. Brown got upset during his interview with co-host Robin Roberts when she asked three times about his 2009 assault on then-girlfriend, Rihanna.
Overnight, Brown transformed from a crude yet invigorating 21st-century version of Thriller-era Michael Jackson into a seething, tattooed reincarnation of Ike Turner at his most bloodshot and depraved. Yet lately, things have been picking up for Brown, no doubt thanks to an upcoming album (F.A.M.E., available March 22) and a public-relations industry that exists to soften the blow for knuckle-headed stars. We grade Brown's efforts so far to reshape his image from Ike to Mike.
5. Community Service
Brown's sentence for his attack on Rihanna included five years of probation, counseling, and 1,400 hours of "labor-oriented" community service. Initially, Brown approached his service with as much gusto as a ninth-grade glue sniffer banished to three weeks of Outward Bound.
Refreshingly, by last fall, Brown had picked up his game enough for the judge to praise him as one of the most consistent probationers she has ever seen.
4. Atonement By Song
Back in the golden age of R&B, Marvin Gaye wrote an album-length putdown of his ex-wife, the commercially disastrous Here My Dear. On 2009's Graffiti, Brown aimed for the reverse, hoping to hit gold by loading up his post-arrest album with remorseful tunes. Yet like the coerced apologies of Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton, Brown's relentless, weepy coos of "I'm sorry" and "I need one more chance" come off more like a carefully massaged media strategy than a genuine act of contrition. Critics predictably pounced while fans ignored Brown's schmaltzy pleas.
3. Saturday Night Live
Aside from housing Andy Samberg's star-fucking digital shorts, SNL serves as America's predominant reformer of tainted celebrity. This began in 1990, when actor Rob Lowe, hobbled by a sex scandal, revived his career with a self-mocking SNL gig. As for Brown, his February performance of "Yeah 3x" showcased his always-agile dance moves but left much to be desired in the vocals department. Brown would later redeem himself with his next song, the alternately rousing and giddy "No Bullshit."
Everyone loves puppies, so posing for a picture with one should naturally make a guy seem cuddly and approachable, right? Not so for Chris Brown, who inexplicably chose for this photo op a pit bull - the preferred breed of crack dealers, junkyard proprietors and the goateed asshole in your neighborhood who stays up all night barbecuing. Next time, get a collie.
1. Humiliating Cell-Phone Pictures
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Like the ashen quarterback Brett Favre, Brown recently tried to entice the ladies by sending out cell-phone photos of his dick. Brown's detractors cite this as evidence of his palpable arrogance; more enlightened folks recognize it as a desperate, Kamikaze strike at a resistant and repulsed gender. After all, a capable man accepts rejection and moves on; it's the broken-down character that resorts to "sexting." If Brown's crotch shot not only exposed more of his anatomy than we ever cared to see, it also revealed him to be as much of a clueless 21-year-old kid as the punchy bogeyman of R&B. Deliberately or not, these photos could be the most humanizing thing Brown has done in the past two years.