To know me is to know that I’m a huge fan of one Robert Barisford Brown, better known to the world as Bobby Brown. And if we’re all being honest, we all should be fans. Just think for a minute about all of the things that Bobby Brown has given to the black community. The list really is too long so I’ll share just a few examples of his generosity.
The Don’t Be Cruel album. He mainstreamed (and if we’re being real, introduced) the word “prerogative,” whether said or spelled wrong or right. Indirectly responsible for “crack is wack.” Cocaine chicken. The Janet Jackson stories we never knew we needed that people don’t know because nobody read his book that everybody should read. The Gumby. New Edition. New Edition biopics. New Edition reunions.
All of these things literally improved the black community. You cannot prove they did not. That makes it all science. I am teaching you education. Speaking of education—you’re welcome—how do you say the word “biopic?” I think it’s “BUY-oh-pic” but I hear some high falutin’ negroes pronounce it as “buy-AH-pic.” I ain’t one to police folks’ speech, but I think people who pronounce it the second way only refer to #ThatRona (aka the coronavirus) as COVID-19. No judgment but boohissboo.
Back to Bobby Brown; the Don’t Be Cruel album is an undeniable classic. Not only is it an undeniable classic—it was both a critical and commercial success beyond even what I think Bobby, Louis Silas, L.A. Reid and Babyface and Teddy Riley thought—I’d wager it’s the best R&B album ever post Thriller. And I like it more than Thriller. This is a hill I’m willing to die on. Fight your grandmoms, bro. But wash your hands first…#ThatRona.
But what I think is more debatable, at least maybe to you and yours, is the classic-cicity of his third album, and followup to Don’t Be Cruel, 1992’s Bobby. For my money, and since its release in August 1992, Bobby has been a jam heavy clinic in Teddy Riley’s new jack swing-ethos. The only thing that kept the album from impacting as much as its predecessor is that Don’t Be Cruel literally changed the game. Bobby was dope music built very much in the same vein of Don’t Be Cruel, except instead of being majority-helmed by L.A. and Face, Teddy Riley took over production on a majority of the songs. L.A. and Face got the first two singles (“Humpin’ Around” and “Good Enough”), which were dope, but the true magic of the album was the Teddy Riley work. In fact, the last three singles from the album were all Teddy Riley productions, “That’s The Way Love Is,” “Something In Common” (featuring Whitney Houston), and “Two Can Play That Game.”
Can we just talk about “Two Can Play That Game” right quick? Yes, let’s. Good googly moogly, this joint jams. I’m actually writing this whole article to this song and trying to both not touch my face and not break the chair I’m in from dancing so hard. Girl, thiiiiiink about it before you leave. I mean, if you want to do your own thing, I hear what you saying, two can play that game. It’s true. Most games need two people to play. Not solitaire, though. You play that game alone. Do you see what I did there? You probably do.
This whole album bangs from start until “Storm Away.” I’m not so partial to the album that I can’t acknowledge that “Storm Away” and “I’m Your Friend” with Debra Winans probably should have been left on the cutting room floor. It was just an odd pairing. I can understand Whitney; they were married; it’s the price of being in a musical marriage. There are parts of “I’m Your Friend” where Bobby really be tryna sang and that’s not his ministry. But hey, Bobby gon’ Bobby and I’ll go ahead and say my life is better because this song exists.
The true crown jewel of the album, for me, is “One More Night.” I could probably write 5,000 words on how much I love this record. I won’t do that here, I’ll save that for my book, Bobby Brown Made My Life Better; What Did Brown Do For You? Here, I’ll give the abridged version. For starters, that Average White Band sample NEVER fails. Secondly, it just jams. Bobby does Bobby things all over the record, singing about needing one more night to make it alright, which is pretty much the Bobby vs. Whitney love story. But the true magic is the last three minutes of the record where you get a beat change and then some pleading and then some fact-spittin’ about that pleading. The sparse beat, guitar plucking, sample and backing vocals turn this into a musical slice of heaven. I vividly remember how much I loved this song as a 13-year-old in 1992 and it feels the EXACT same for me today. I could listen to this song on repeat. I’ll bet Teddy and Bobby had all of the fun making this record. In fact, I’ll bet that’s why it’s the longest song (6:29) on an album where nearly every single song is at least five minutes long.
If you loved Don’t Be Cruel, it’s almost impossible not to love Bobby. Again, it’s not the game-changer that Don’t Be Cruel is, but it takes everything that made Don’t Be Cruel great and makes it even better and more fun. Bobby, himself, said he loved making the album and it shows. Bobby Brown gave us so much and musically we only ever really talk about his largest seller; it’s time we give Bobby it’s due.
I’m teaching you education.