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What happened with Chris Brown and Usher?

Chris Brown and Usher are two of the biggest R&B stars of the 2000s. Both launched their careers as teenagers and quickly rose to fame with their energetic dance moves and catchy pop-flavored R&B songs. However, their paths diverged in the late 2000s due to Chris Brown’s legal troubles and controversial actions. Here’s a look at what happened with these two influential artists over the past decade.

How did Chris Brown and Usher get their start in the music industry?

Chris Brown released his first single “Run It!” in 2005 at age 16, topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart. His self-titled debut album soon followed, selling over 3 million copies worldwide. With his boyish good looks and smooth dance moves, Brown quickly became a teen heartthrob.

Usher had been performing since age 12 as part of the R&B group NuBeginnings in the early 1990s. He went solo in 1994 with his first album simply titled Usher. His career really took off with the release of his 1997 album My Way and its smash single “You Make Me Wanna…” By the time he released Confessions in 2004, Usher was an established R&B superstar.

Chris Brown’s Early Success

Chris Brown’s second album, Exclusive, was released in 2007 and included the hits “Wall to Wall” and “With You.” It sold over 3 million copies worldwide, cementing Brown’s status as a rising pop-R&B sensation. He became known for his high-flying dance moves and production from top hip-hop producers.

Usher’s Continued Prominence

Meanwhile, Usher continued dominating the 2000s music scene. His 2004 Confessions album sold over 20 million copies worldwide and won the Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album. He racked up multiple #1 hits including “Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, “Burn,” and “Confessions Part II.” By the late 2000s, Usher was an R&B icon still at the peak of his popularity.

How did Chris Brown’s legal issues affect his career?

In early 2009, Chris Brown physically assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna, leaving her injured. He pleaded guilty to felony assault and was sentenced to probation, community service, and domestic violence counseling.

The fallout from this incident dramatically impacted Chris Brown’s career and public perception. Many radio stations stopped playing his music. Events and sponsors dropped him. He took time away from the public eye and released his album Graffiti later in 2009 to poor sales.

Chris Brown’s Legal Troubles Continue

Legal issues plagued Chris Brown long after his initial arrest. In 2011, he was involved in a violent altercation with R&B singer Frank Ocean over a parking space. Other incidents included throwing a brick through a car window after an interview, punching a fan seeking a photo, and accusations of assaults from multiple women.

Brown seemed unable to control his anger even with counseling, probation, and community service requirements. His bad boy antics increasingly overshadowed his musical talent. Several of his albums released post-2009 underperformed amidst all the controversy.

Impact on His Music and Career

While Chris Brown saw some chart success in the early 2010s, he never fully regained his former popularity. Many former fans turned against him. His brand became too toxic for endorsements and sponsorships. Other artists distanced themselves from collaborating with him.

However, Chris Brown still maintained a loyal fanbase attracted to his music and dancing skills. He began shifting toward an edgier rap/hip-hop sound versus the pop and R&B that first made him famous. Brown continues releasing music and performing today, but will likely always remain a controversial figure.

How did Usher maintain his popularity in the 2010s?

Unlike Chris Brown, Usher successfully maintained both his popularity and mainstream appeal in the 2010s despite being in the music industry for over two decades. He achieved this through album reinventions, strategic collaborations, and capitalizing on media attention.

Reinventing His Sound

Usher showed his versatility and kept up with music trends by experimenting with electronic dance music on 2010’s Raymond v. Raymond and trap beats on later albums like Hard II Love. He collaborated with hot producers like Diplo, Skrillex, and Future.

This allowed Usher to appeal to both his original R&B fanbase and a new generation of pop/electronic listeners. Singles like “OMG” and “Yeah!” with their dancefloor-ready production demonstrated Usher’s ability to evolve with the times.

Strategic Collaborations

In addition to working with EDM artists and producers, Usher maintained visibility through collaborations with rap/hip-hop stars. He teamed up with Lil Jon on multiple singles, appeared on songs with Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, and Young Thug, and joined forces with Drake for his smash 2018 single “Nice for What.”

These pairings with relevant rap acts exposed Usher’s music to their large fanbases. The collaborations portrayed him as flexible and open to blending different musical styles into his R&B roots.

Capitalizing on Media Attention

Usher also stayed in the public eye by serving as a coach on NBC’s hit singing competition The Voice for several seasons. This allowed him to showcase his talent and connect with audiences outside of just music.

His high-profile divorce from former wife Tameka Foster and following custody battle made major headlines, keeping Usher’s name in the news throughout the 2010s for better or worse. He gave revealing interviews about the challenges in his personal life.

By leveraging TV appearances, strategic collaborations, and even his personal drama, Usher adapted seamlessly to shifting music trends and pop culture to remain relevant.

How did other factors contribute to the differing trajectories of their careers?

Aside from how the two artists handled controversy and reinvention, other factors helped shape the diverging paths of Chris Brown and Usher’s careers over the past decade.

Different Reactions to Backlash

Both Chris Brown and Usher faced career-threatening backlash, but responded very differently. After his domestic violence incident, Brown often reacted angrily on social media to those criticizing him. Meanwhile, Usher took accountability by addressing his allegations of infidelity and divorce with maturity in interviews.

Fan Base Demographics

The demographics of their original fanbases also played a role. Chris Brown first attracted teen girls who eventually outgrew their fandom. Usher had an older urban audience that remained loyal into their adulthood.

Personal Issues

Chris Brown’s unaddressed anger problems torpedoed his career in a way Usher’s marital issues did not. Usher’s drama did not significantly damage his artistry or professional reputation.

Musical Adaptability

While both added electronic and rap elements to their music, Usher was embraced as current while Chris Brown faced a backlash abandoning his R&B roots. Usher more successfully straddled the line between classic R&B songcraft and modern production.

Associated Artists

Usher aligned himself with artists like Lil Jon and Ludacris who enhanced his cool factor. Brown’s allies like Tyga carried baggage from legal troubles and beefs.

These additional factors underscore why Usher could thrive in spite of challenges while Brown faced a seemingly insurmountable uphill climb.


Chris Brown and Usher represent two of the biggest male R&B superstars to rise to fame in the 2000s. But a violent incident in 2009 sent their careers in opposite directions. While Usher maintained his popularity through reinvention, Chris Brown became known more for legal troubles than music. He faced career-hindering backlash and was unable to reinvent his image. Other factors like fan demographics, adaptability, and personal issues also contributed to these diverging trajectories.

Today, Usher remains an A-list artist still releasing chart-topping music and collaborating with major artists. Chris Brown’s music career never fully recovered, though he retains a smaller yet devoted fanbase. Their contrasting career paths underscore how one major incident and reaction to controversy can forever alter an artist’s image and success.

Key Events Timeline

Year Chris Brown Usher
2005 Releases breakout single “Run It!” Popular in mid 2000s with Confessions success
2007 Exclusive album huge success Continues releasing hit singles
2009 Arrest for assaulting Rihanna Raymond v. Raymond album success
2011 Incident with Frank Ocean Appears on The Voice
2012 New album Fortune underperforms Collaborates with Diplo
2014 Jail time for probation violation The Voice judge and collaborates with Nicki Minaj
2016 More legal troubles emerge Hard II Love album explores trap beats
2018 Heartbreak on a Full Moon album Massive hit with Drake “Nice for What”
2021 Indigo album tries pop/hip-hop sound Judge on The Voice, features on Doja Cat hit

This timeline summarizes the key events and album releases showing the divergence of Chris Brown and Usher’s careers over the past 15+ years. While both started as similar teen R&B heartthrobs, Usher maintained consistent success and popularity while Brown’s legal troubles and inability to reinvent himself stalled his career.

Chris Brown Album Sales Data

Album Release Date Units Sold (US)
Chris Brown November 2005 Over 3 million
Exclusive November 2007 Over 3 million
Graffiti December 2009 355,000
F.A.M.E. March 2011 1.3 million
Fortune June 2012 450,000
X September 2014 270,000
Royalty December 2015 600,000
Heartbreak on a Full Moon October 2017 500,000
Indigo June 2019 330,000

This table illustrates how Chris Brown’s album sales declined sharply after his assault incident in 2009. His first two albums sold over 3 million copies each in the mid 2000s at the height of his teen stardom. But no album after his fall from grace matched that commercial success, with several selling less than 500,000 units.

Usher Album Sales Data

Album Release Date Units Sold (US)
Raymond v. Raymond March 2010 Over 1 million
Versus July 2010 440,000
Looking 4 Myself June 2012 980,000
Hard II Love September 2016 310,000
A October 2018 315,000
Confessions 2 August 2022 260,000 (so far)

In contrast to Chris Brown, Usher maintained relatively consistent album sales of around 300,000 to 1 million copies throughout the 2010s and 2020s. While not reaching his early 2000s commercial heights, Usher has avoided major sales drop-offs amidst music industry changes. He continues shifting enough units to cement his lasting place in R&B.

Key Takeaways

The diverging careers of Chris Brown and Usher underscore several important lessons:

  • One major incident can permanently damage an artist’s reputation and success.
  • How an artist handles controversy and backlash matters hugely.
  • Adapting sound and image to stay current is key to longevity.
  • Demographics of fanbases impact how scandals affect careers.
  • Associating with controversial allies can backfire.
  • Addressing personal issues maturely preserves artistic respect.
  • Reinvention requires understanding music and culture trends.

While Chris Brown and Usher had similar beginnings, their paths forked based on a mix of scandal, musical adaptation, and self-awareness. Their story provides lessons for any artist striving for sustained relevance.