Bobby Brown wants his first solo album in 14 years—The Masterpiece—to help change his image. It’s going to take plenty more than 10 tracks of the self-proclaimed “best album I’ve done so far” to showcase his “healing,” but when word got out there was an ode to his late ex-wife, Whitney Houston, he sure had help getting his word out.
Due out today, the 43-year-old singer kicks off his new record with “Don’t Let Me Die,” a song with ties to Houston, according to folks willing to dissect the lyrics, despite not mentioning her by name. In the song, he sings “now I’m stuck living in the past, trying to get the pieces back, but I guess now you’re gone and it hurts so bad.”
Despite not directly referencing Houston, the woman he was married to from 1992 to 2007, he sings, “been about a month since you been gone” and “I’m holding on to these memories/that is the only way I’ll survive.”
Now engaged to his manager, Alicia Etheridge, Brown told one music writer, “And after the recent death of Whitney, I guess that song really came to me because of me not wanting to lose.” But Brown’s mother and father also passed away in the last year and those losses may have played into the song. Prior to a late May performance at the Today show, Brown, though, finally tried to distance himself from the Whitney ties, instead saying he couldn’t imagine living life without Etheridge.
The Brown-Houston marriage was troubled, to say the least. Houston accused him of emotional abuse repeatedly prior to her drug-induced death in February. Since that time, Brown has gone on a public relations-inspired awakening, telling Matt Lauer on the Today show this year that he’s trying to use music to heal, wasn’t involved in getting Houston hooked on drugs and has been clean from narcotics himself since 2005 (he was, however, arrested for a DUI in March).
Brown, who first rose to fame with New Edition before going solo has had numerous (people stopped counting a long time ago) drug-related and legal woes in his career, and the up-and-down marriage with Houston certainly didn’t help his rocky image. Now back on tour with New Edition, Brown hopes he has enough time to reinvent himself in the public’s eye, saying that the wait for a new album was because he needed to clean up his life: “When you’re working on yourself, you have to really concentrate on working on yourself and it takes a back seat to what you want to do and what I’m gonna do,” he says according to the Associated Press.
Now all he wants to do is showcase a Bobby Brown focused on entertaining, not issues. At least that’s the spin.
LIST: The All-TIME 100 Songs