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“Chris Brown’s star falls; Rihanna’s could, too”

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The Associated Press – Thu. Mar. 12 2009 10:17 AM ET

NEW YORK — More than a month after the assault that left Rihanna bloodied and bruised, the situation is grimmer for the once-brilliant career of Chris Brown, her boyfriend and alleged attacker.

Despite reports the couple has reconciled – including reports of an apparent duet recording session – public animosity toward Brown, Billboard’s artist of the year for 2008, seems to be growing.

Radio stations are dropping his music, and on Wednesday he voluntarily removed his name from the ballot of Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards, for which he was twice nominated just before his Feb. 8 arrest for allegedly beating Rihanna.

“Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding the incident last month has shifted the focus from the music to whether he should be allowed to be among those nominated,” a statement from his representatives read.

At 19, Brown is already a multiplatinum star who has not only dominated music but made the leap to film in movies like “Stomp the Yard” and “This Christmas.” He was a favourite of kids for his lithe voice, danceable beats and formidable dance skills; of young girls for his handsome looks and of parents, because of his clean-cut image.

That winning combination helped him rack up album sales and awards: Billboard named him as its artist of the year for 2008. But figures show his overall audience, if not his fan base, has shrunk since his arrest. A leaked photo showing the battered face of Rihanna didn’t help and an affidavit released last week included details that highlighted the apparent brutality of the attack.

While Brown didn’t have any new music out at the time of his arrest, his top hit “Forever” was still getting substantial radio play at the time. Billboard’s Hot 100 Recurrent Airplay chart showed the song was slowly drifting down and was at No. 14 before the arrest, for a radio audience of about 16 million people.

Billboard said right after the arrest, the song plummetted from 14 to 58, or an audience of about nine million. It is now off the chart.

Even having Brown featured on a song may be a bad move: Jive Records labelmate T-Pain, who did a duet with Brown called “Freeze,” is offering an alternative version to radio stations that deletes Brown, said people inside the radio industry who requested anonymity.

Bill Werde, editor in chief for Billboard, said it may be too early to say whether the severe damage done to his career in the short term will affect Brown permanently.

“People’s memories can be short and I think sometimes an amazing hit can trump even people’s expectations,” he said Wednesday.

“That said, Chris Brown is a guy who sort of developed his career around a very clean image, and an image that was safe for teens and tweens…When you have an artist whose career has been so predicated on keeping a clean image, this is a little bit of a tougher hurdle to get over.”

Howard Bragman, veteran Hollywood publicist, damage-control specialist and author of the book “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes,” said Brown’s youth may also be an asset to him in the long run if he makes a sincere attempt at rehabilitation.

“I do think he can come back from this, I think if he made the mistakes people think he made,” he said.

“I think he is young enough and talented enough; eventually there are people who will forgive you.”

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