Though “Brown” is the sixth most-popular surname in the United States, the comparison from Whitney and Bobby to Rihanna and Chris has been all too obvious over the events of the past week. The fame, the fortune, the drugs, the domestic abuse — are you one of the many who blame Bobby for Whitney’s death? Terrified that Rihanna will end up the same way? After a weekend of rumors revolving around the duo planning a collaboration — or worse, getting back together, let’s compare and contrast the relationships between the two ill-fated Hollywood couples.
Charges: Bobby Brown was arrested for DUI in 1996. In the early 2000s, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In 2003, Brown was charged with battery against his then-wife Whitney Houston after threatening to “beat her ass.” Surprisingly, Brown and Houston arrived at that court appearance arm in arm. Houston told reporters “We’re still together,” smiling proudly despite a bruised cheek and a cut inside her lip. In 2004, Brown was sentenced to 90 days in prison for missing three months of child support, which was suspended after he made up the payments. In 2006, the couple separated. In 2009, Houston told Oprah that Brown “…was my drug. I didn’t do anything without him. I wasn’t getting high by myself. It was me and him together, and we were partners, and that’s what my high was — him. He and I being together, and whatever we did, we did it together. No matter what, we did it together.” She confessed their drugs of choice were alcohol, marijuana and, you know, crack. Houston also said that at times, Brown cuts the heads off pictures of her.
In 2009, Chris Brown, age 19 at the time, pleaded guilty to felony assault charges after beating his girlfriend, Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty. The police report states that the debacle began over a text message from a previous lover, which Rihanna read on Brown’s cell phone. “A verbal argument ensued and Brown pulled the vehicle over on an unknown street, reached over Robyn F. with his right hand, opened the car door and attempted to force her out. Brown was unable to force Robyn F. out of the vehicle because she was wearing a seat belt. When he could not force her to exit, he took his right hand and shoved her head against he passenger window of the vehicle, causing an approximate one-inch raised circular contusion. Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.’s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle. Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, ‘I’m going to beat the sh– out of you when we get home! You wait and see!’ ”
Brown was sentenced to five years probation, one year of domestic violence counseling, six months of community service, plus a restraining order that has wavered in strictness since the incident. Months later, Brown uploaded a 2-minute video to YouTube apologizing for what he did. In 2001, after performing on “Good Morning America” where he was asked about the Rihanna situation, Brown became violent in his dressing room and threw an object at a window overlooking Times Square. “Good Morning America” did not press charges. Brown has tweeted and deleted many violent, aggressive and vulgar messages over the past three years. Most recently, Brown tweeted “Strange how we pick and choose who to hate! Let me ask u this. Our society is full of rappers (which I listen to) who have sold drugs (poisoning) … HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate FUCK OFF!” It was deleted moments later.
Grammy history: Houston won six Grammys between 1986 and 2000. Rihanna has won six Grammys as well (in a matter of five years, and by age 23). Bobby Brown collected one Grammy for “Best Male R&B Vocal Performance” in 1989 for “Every Little Step.” Chris Brown won his first Grammy this past Sunday night for his album, “F.A.M.E.” Let’s hope that these mirror-image wins don’t predict a similar future for Brown and Rihanna.
Where are they now: Houston’s body is being prepared for burial this Saturday in her hometown of Westfield, N.J. Bobby Brown will not attend the funeral as per the request of Houston’s family, and instead will perform with his 1980s boy band, New Edition, at Mohegan Sun Area in Connecticut. Chris Brown can be found gloating over his recent Grammy win and prepping for the premiere of his new music video, “Turn Up The Music.” Rihanna reportedly spent Valentine’s Day with Brown as well as friends Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Kelly Rowland to celebrate her upcoming 24th birthday. Rihanna can also be seen in previews for “Battleship,” which will be her film debut.
Allison Berger is a Philadelphia-based writer and a pop music columnist for Reverb. Check out more of her writing here.