My Prerogative

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"My Prerogative"
An African American man. He looks towards the camera with a commanding face. He wears a white wifebeater, jeans and a brown leather jacket. The background is a blurred street, with a truck behind him. On the upper left corner of the image, the words "Bobby Brown" are written in flourished red and green letters. On the upper left corner, the word "My Prerogative" is written in very small white capital letters.
Single by Bobby Brown
from the album Don't Be Cruel
Released October 11, 1988
Format 7" single, 12" single, CD single
Recorded April 1988
Genre R&B, dance, new jack swing
Length 4:51 (LP version)
4:34 (7" version)
Label MCA
Writer(s) Bobby Brown, Gene Griffin, Teddy Riley
Producer(s) Gene Griffin
Certification Gold (RIAA)[1]
Bobby Brown singles chronology
"Don't Be Cruel"
(1988)
"My Prerogative"
(1988)
"Roni"
(1989)

"My Prerogative" is a song by American recording artist Bobby Brown from his second solo studio album, Don't Be Cruel. It was released on October 11, 1988 as the second single from the album. After recording sessions for the album were completed, Brown and producer Gene Griffin travelled to New York City, since he felt something was "missing" from the record. "My Prerogative" was written by Brown as a response to the criticism he received for his departure from New Edition. He explained the song was about making decisions in one's life and not caring about other people's judgment. "My Prerogative" is often considered a new jack swing anthem, and contains many elements from Teddy Riley productions.

The song was positively received by critics and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best R&B Urban Contemporary Single. It was also commercially successful, reaching number one in Billboard's Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. "My Prerogative" also reached top ten positions in many countries, such as Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The music video for the song features Brown performing the song on stage with his band and dancers. The song was also performed at most of his concerts, usually as the last song of the set list. On the February 4, 1989 performance at Madison Square Garden, he was joined on stage by many popular rap artists and producers of the time.

"My Prerogative" has been covered and sampled by a number of artists from different genres, most notably by Britney Spears. She released her cover in her first compilation, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (2004). The cover was produced by Bloodshy & Avant and was noted for aptly referring to Spears's relationship with the media at the time. It received mostly unfavorable reviews from critics, with one reviewer calling it "unnecessary". Although the song only appeared in component charts in the United States, Spears's cover surpassed Brown's version worldwide, peaking at the top of the charts in Finland, Ireland, Italy and Norway and reaching the top ten in another fourteen countries.[2][3] The music video portrays Spears arriving at a Hollywood manor in which a party is taking place. In the end, it is revealed that the party is actually Spears's wedding.

Background[edit]

Brown had already completed recording sessions for Don't Be Cruel in Los Angeles, California, but felt something was missing in the record. He said, "I felt my album was lacking a strong, aggressive song and I thought, 'Where better than New York to come up with it'". He travelled to the city with producer Gene Griffin.[4] "My Prerogative" was written and co-produced by Brown, Griffin and Teddy Riley. It was recorded at Axis Studios and mixed at Soundworks, in New York. The track was mastered at Future Disc Systems in Hollywood, California.[5] During an interview with The Hour on March 17, 1989, Brown explained the theme behind the song, saying, "A lot of things had been said about Bobby Brown, why was he doing this [a solo career]. It's my way of expressing to people it's your prerogative to do as you want, but make sure what you do is the right thing".[4] A CD single of remixes by Joe T. Vannelli was released on October 13, 1995.[6]

Composition[edit]

A 29 second sample of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative", where the chorus is played with strong background vocals.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"My Prerogative" is considered a new jack swing anthem, that merges hip hop beats with elements of synthpop and soul.[7] It features a triplet swing in the sixteenth note, as included in many of Riley's productions.[8] Jake Brown said in his book Your body's calling me: music, love, sex & money (2003), that like most new jack swing songs from the late 1980s, it was composed by "punchy, street-savvy beats, with sexually energetic melodies and poppy choruses".[9] The bassline of the track was described by Cam'Ron Davis of CMJ New Music Monthly as "truly sinister".[10] According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by EMI Music Publishing, the song is composed in the key of A minor, with a tempo of 120 beats per minute. Brown's vocal range spans from the high-note of C4 to A5.[11]

Reception[edit]

Barry Michael Cooper of Spin said "My Prerogative" "sounds like gin-drenched, Roaring Twenties swing".[12] Arion Berger of Rolling Stone called it "a grumpy and undeniably adult dance hit".[13] "My Prerogative" was nominated for at the 30th Grammy Awards in the category of Best R&B Urban Contemporary Single by a Male, but lost to Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror".[14] The following year, Spin listed the song at number 72 on the "100 Greatest Singles of All Time" list.[15] It ranked at number 98 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of the 80's".[16] The track is often referred to as Brown's signature song.[17]

"My Prerogative" debuted on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 during the week of October 29, 1988 at number 61.[18] The following week, it climbed 16 positions to number 45.[19] On January 14, 1989, it peaked at the top position of the chart. The song also peaked at number one in Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and at number seven in Hot Dance Club Songs.[20] It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales over 500,000 copies.[1] In Canada, the song debuted on the RPM Singles Chart at position 98, on the issue dated December 23, 1989.[21] In the United Kingdom, "My Prerogative" debuted at number 87 on December 10, 1989. On February 18, 1989, the song peaked at number six and stayed in the position for two weeks.[22] Following the release of the remixes single on October 14, 1995, "My Prerogative" re-entered the UK charts at number 17, and stayed on the chart for two weeks.[6] Across Europe, the song reached the top ten in Ireland and the Netherlands,[2][23] and the top 20 in Germany and Sweden.[2][24] In Australia and New Zealand, the track peaked at number 40 and number three, respectively.[2]

Music video[edit]

An African American man. He is surrounded by two women playing instruments. He is wearing a black suit and a headset, while performing on a stage with the women. The women are wearing black lace outfits.
Brown performing in a scene of the music video.

The music video for "My Prerogative" was directed by Alek Keshishian.[25] It begins with Brown driving a car while his musicians start to perform the song on a stage. Shortly after, he descends to the stage in an elevator, wearing a black jumpsuit and a headset. He dances flanked by two women, one of them playing a keytar.[10] J. D. Considine of Rolling Stone wrote in the review of Bobby (1992), "As anyone who saw him swagger through the videos for 'My Prerogative' and 'Every Little Step' can attest, Brown had a phenomenal ability to convey a sense of street toughness that was utterly without malice or menace, making him credible and likable".[26] The music video was nominated at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Stage Performance in a Video, but lost to the music video of Living Colour's "Cult of Personality".[16] It also charted at number nine on RPM video chart on July 21, 1990.[27]

Live performances[edit]

"My Prerogative" was performed during his tour in promotion for Don't Be Cruel as the last song of the night. Brown usually performed it wearing a black outfit, flanked with two male dancers wearing white clothes.[28] On the February 4, 1989, show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Brown wore a red boxing robe with the words "King of the Stage" printed on the back. During the performance, Joseph Simmons of Run-DMC, LL Cool J and Heavy D joined him onstage and freestyle rapped. Eric B., KRS-One, L. A. Reid, Babyface and Teddy Riley also joined him onstage, with the latter performing a keyboard solo. Peter Watrous of The New York Times commented that, "The communal scene on stage mirrored the feeling in the audience; everybody seemed aware that this was a generation that had rewritten the rules of pop entertainment, and was justifiably proud of its achievement".[29] Brown also performed the song at the 1997 Home Again Tour with New Edition, during the second portion of the show in which he performed hits from his solo career.[30] On November 10, 2005, he performed the song for the first time in eight years at a concert at House of Blues in Atlantic City. He wore a white suit and matching hat, and sang it as the last song of the evening.[31] On January 17, 2006, he performed it at a New Edition show in Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal. During the performance, he tore open his orange dress shirt, singing bare-chested with a tie and a fur coat on.[32] Brown also performed the song during his 2007 July shows in Australia.[33]

Track listing[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]