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Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: Bobby Brown, King Of Stage

The year was 1986, and Bobby Brown, a well-known teen idol, was at a critical juncture in his career. His childhood friends had recently voted him out of their musical group, New Edition. Nonetheless, his label’s CEO, the late Jheryl Busby, apprised Brown that the label was obligated to offer him a solo deal. Consequently, Brown embarked on his debut solo album, “King of Stage,” which we chose as our featured selection for this week’s Second Listen Sunday.

Brown had previously sung lead on the New Edition hits “Mr. Telephone Man” and “Jealous Girl,” in addition to showcasing his tenor on “Let’s Be Friends,” “Who Do Your Trust” from “All For Love” his last album with the group. For the first single, “Girlfriend,” Brown delivered a ballad. Kirk Crumpler, Lee Peters, and Larry White wrote the song, and White also received production credit.  The song doesn’t deviate much from the typical NE formula, as Bobby Brown sings about love, longing, and the desire for companionship. The lyrics convey a sense of yearning for a deep emotional connection with a romantic partner, emphasizing the significance of love and intimacy, which was relatable for teenagers then.

Brown teamed up with Cameo members Larry Blackmoon and Melvin Wells for his second solo single, “Girl Next Door.” The song tells a story about how he developed an infatuation with his neighbor. Both songs were solid efforts, showcasing Brown’s ability to shine as a solo artist. Brown has spoken about not liking the album’s direction and promo campaign that the label rolled out. The rest of the album sees Brown experimenting with different styles to find his footing or appease the label,

The album has a hip-hop title track, a message song called “Seventeen,” and “Your Tender Romance” with some funk elements. I particularly like the album’s other ballad, “Spending Time,” but the rest is mostly filler. As a fan, I find it surprising that Brown did not collaborate with some of the producers who had worked with him on his solo projects during his New Edition days. These producers would have a better understanding of his vocal style.

“King Of Stage”  has grown on me since the first listen, and while Brown rarely revisits any material from the album, it sets the stage for things to come.

Final Grade: B-

“King Of Stage” is available on all streaming platforms.

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Second Listen Sunday: Bobby Brown, King Of Stage