MUSIC: BOBBY BROWN: SPIN CONTROL

BOBBY BROWN'S FOREVER IS ONLY ABOUT IMAGE REPAIR

Not long ago, it was difficult to overstate Bobby Brown's influence on black pop music. In the mid-1980s he was a teenage star in the bubblegum-soul quintet New Edition, which became the blueprint for dozens of harmony groups, including Boyz 2 Men. On his own in the late '80s, he became even more innovative with Don't Be Cruel, a small masterpiece that helped create new jack swing--a commercially potent rap-R. and B. hybrid that still echoes in the work of Mary J. Blige and R. Kelly.

Since then, largely through his own doing, Brown has become better known as a volatile...

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