When Whitney Houston died in February, Sony “accidentally” spiked the price of the singer’s albums. Celebrities seemingly re-engaged with the media just to be part of the dialogue on her death, to their own benefit. I’ve seen press releases for tribute groups who are “touring” in order to “celebrate” her legacy, a predictably profitable time in their careers. Cover songs were made in tribute and sold on iTunes.
Whitney’s mom Cissy is putting out her first album of gospel songs in a decade and Lifetime is cobbling together a reality series based on the Houston family, which include the participation of Whitney’s teenaged daughter Bobbi Kristina. And Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown is putting out a new set, “Being Bobby Brown,” on June 5. It’s his first studio full-length since 1997.
Not every artistic expression made in the name of dead entertainers is made in the name of profit. It just comes off as very complicated, especially in the passing’s immediate wake.
Brown debuted a new song “Don’t Let Me Die” on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” last night (May 16) that directly addresses his tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship to his former, late wife.
“I guess I messed up pretty bad… But I guess now you’re gone,” he sings.
I think the song doesn’t have a very good arrangement, but it does read like a genuinely complicated response to someone he once loved. And that’s part of the sale: that it does, in fact, sound authentic.
For somebody whose public appearances around Whitney’s death were somewhat maligned — plus, with the news that he and Bobbi Kristina are estranged — there’s that pang of hoping Brown’s artistic expression is purely emotional, not to be exploited for profit. And then also knowing better than to hope that.
Just had to say it. Can’t think much more. Watch the performance below (fast forward to the final segment). What do you think?
UPDATE 5/18: A Bobby Brown rep denies the song is about Whitney, but doesn’t qualify beyond. To the timing, I still say, “Mmhm, sure.”