He never made it to the Grammy Awards stage, but Chris Brown's performance Sunday could become an example of how to wreck one's career in record time.

With the awards ceremony under way, Brown was booked by Los Angeles police for purportedly "making criminal threats." He was soon released. But Brown's under investigation for the more serious charge of felony domestic violence, with girlfriend and fellow Grammy-nominated R&B singer Rihanna named as the victim.

The arrest stemmed from a 12:30 am Sunday morning incident in which a female, now known to be Rihanna, argued with Brown outside his car on the way back from a pre-Grammy party at Clive Davis' house. The argument escalated, a bystander called 911, Brown left the scene. The woman suffered visible injuries, according to police, and identified Brown as her assailant. E! said the injuries were facial bruises. (Police said Brown had no apparent injuries.)

Both Brown and Rihanna cancelled plans to perform; Al Green was pressed into service instead to do "Let's Stay Together" with Justin Timberlake, Keith Urban and Boyz II Men. Both had been nominated for multiple awards, and were competing in "Pop Collaboration With Vocals." (Neither ended up winning anything.)

It's hard to imagine a higher-profile fight, save for one directly in front of the cameras. Thanks to their absence at the Grammys and the timing of their arrest, the incident will factor heavily in Grammy coverage. The Associated Press, for example, had it in the second paragraph of its awards story, saying it "overshadowed" the ceremony itself.

The story should get at least one more cycle of coverage, as more details emerge. If they confirm that Brown smacked his girlfriend around, the singer should brace for a very different kind of critical attention than what he's received from the Recording Academy.