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At 16, Chris Brown ‘runs’ the charts

R&B singer soars to top of charts with single ‘Run It,’ debut album
/ Source: The Associated Press

These days, Chris Brown is just trying to stay focused and humble — but when you’re a 16-year-old R&B singer with the hottest single in the country, it’s not easy.

Especially when that single, the catchy-club bouncer “Run It,” has ruled the charts for several weeks. And your self-titled debut album premieres at No. 2. And you’re about to embark on a tour with platinum acts like Ciara and Bow Wow. And you’ve become an instant heartthrob, with teenage girls following you around the country screaming your name.

“It’s getting hard to stay focused with all these lovely ladies out here,” chuckles Brown. “(But) I still want to be the best.”

Brown is the latest young male R&B singer making a statement on the charts. Mario had one of the biggest hits of the year with “Let Me Love You,” while Omarion made girls swoon with hits like “O.” And Marques Houston had one of BET’s most requested videos of the year with “Naked.”

But Brown has set himself apart from the pack with “Run It,” an infectious tune that tempts a girl on the dance floor. It has been perched at the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart for the past three weeks.

“When you look at how quickly that song grew on the charts, it was a one listen (thing),” says Amy Doyle, senior vice president of music and talent and MTV and MTV2, where Brown has become a fixture. “When you have that kind of connection out of the gate, it only gets bigger from there.”

He’s already being compared to music biggest stars. Brown’s frenetic dance moves, the showcase for the video to “Run It,” have been compared to Usher’s, while his strong, semi-high voice recalls a young Michael Jackson.

Had Brown followed his first instinct, he might have been rapping instead. While he’s been singing since childhood, rap was the first genre where he thought he would make his mark — “until I figured that my voice was unique and that girls were more attracted to the voice.”

But Brown didn’t do a lot of talent shows or local performing — instead, without the help of his mom, he shopped demos to producers in his home town of Tappahannock, Va., who in turn helped him link up with record labels. He says he had several suitors before signing earlier this year with Jive, home to Ciara, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and others.

Jive also matched Brown with top producers like Scott Storch, who’s responsible for “Run It.” Brown had input on the album and even co-wrote a few tracks.

“They really was down to earth with me. They wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is just a little kid coming in here singing, we’re going to give him whatever.’ They really believed in me,” Brown said.

As a result, his album is mature enough that adults can relate — but not too mature for the tween set, which is his core audience.

“It might go into a little bit of intimate stuff but it’s not going too intimate,” he says. “But at the same time, it’s not going kiddie — it’s not going too bubble-gum lollipop. ... So it’s a blend, a lot of people can relate to it.”

Doyle agrees.

“It’s not specific to just girls or just boys or one race or the other,” she said. “It connects on that bigger level.”