Chris Brown and Frank Ocean Headed for a Showdown on the Charts?

February 20th, 2013

(Photos from left: BET, Island Def Jam)

By Gee King

With plenty of tension still surrounding the relationship between R&B’s two brightest stars, what can we expect from the highly-anticipated projects due from Chris Brown and Frank Ocean in 2013? Both singers have confirmed that they are nearing completion of their new albums. With the game still buzzing about their parking lot altercation and fans quickly choosing sides, how will these two mega-talents handle the world’s desire to see their stars collide?

Their polar personalities are what sparked their beef in the first place, but it’s their opposite skill sets — Frank’s for subtle intellectual lyricism, Chris’s for explosive emotional expression — that has the R&B world drooling at the possibility of a showdown on the charts. Despite their willingness to throw fists, the two may not be directly combative enough to coordinate a same day release showdown a la Kanye West and 50 Cent in 2007. But after their equally awkward Grammy nights (Chris was snubbed at the podium, Frank was a disappointment on stage), it’s going to be tough to resist the desire of media and fans to continue pitting the young geniuses against one another until one proves the other unworthy of comparison for good.

The irony fueling this entire episode is that they’d best serve their artistic interests as collaborators instead of foes. The power of Breezy’s vocal and visual talent paired with the lyrical and melodic vision of Frank would be music’s version of Spike and Denzel. And the fact that their beef stems from a tweet from Brown that compared Ocean to James Fauntleroy and Kevin Cossum is proof of an underlying respect. But while Frank and his Odd Future bros can mockingly compare Brown to Sisqo, he could clearly learn a thing or two from Breezy about performing in wake of his whistle-blowing disaster on the Grammy big stage. By disguising their respect as hatred, both have put themselves in the precarious position of having to fear a potentially amazing collaborator. But if it all came down to it on screen and stage, who would reign as the superior entertainer?

Here and now, Chris Brown has a larger, more dedicated fan base that would allow him to crush Frank on the charts. But the media’s desire to paint Frank as the “good guy” combined with the heroic status he will always have for being honest about his sexual orientation would tilt the scale of public opinion in his favor. Fans and critics aside, the true outcome of their showdown won’t be clear until they overcome their differences and bury the hatchet. But before anyone will allow that to happen, we’ll have to see them fight to the artistic death to know who is truly capable of carrying the future of music on their back.

Love will conquer all in the end, and whether it’s next year or five years from now, expect to hear these two on a song together before either’s career hits rock bottom. Like Jay-Z and Nas, there will ultimately come a time when they have more to gain by teaming up than continuing to tear each other down. Until then, let’s enjoy the impending clash of R&B titans that will hopefully produce more mind-blowing music than scandalous headlines.

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