Chris Brown’s last album, Fortune, was unfortunately mauled alive by critics for being poorly produced and stylized. Since then, Brown hasn’t fared well with the media, and his reputation has gone down the chute. Perhaps it’s fitting that Brown returns slightly strong, although apt to be cheesy, with his new album, ‘X’, which recently dropped through RCA Records.
The title track and opener, ‘X,’ is a great example where Brown’s versatility and vulnerability is shown in combination to produce a fantastic tune. The album follows in Brown’s hometown genre of R&B and rap, blending itself across multiple fixtures of electronics and drums. The first half opens itself to bubble-gum lined productions glided in bass and synthesizer, finished off with simplistic yet beautiful chord alignments that give Chris Brown’s voice the best accompaniment.
The only bad thing about the opening half of the album is the overindulgence of features which add nothing of value. For example, R. Kelly and Akon accompany Brown through two songs that could have been edited out of the album. The song ‘Came To Do’ is the demo verso of ‘Loyal,’ the popular radio single from the album, with a verse from Akon. Akon’s verse is a terrible hodgepodge that marks a heavy weak point on the album. ‘Don’t’ features singing from Ariana Grande, which goes against her usual high-pitched vocals. The best collaboration is in ‘Drunk Texting,’ which features the smoky voice of Jhene Aiko. ‘Drunk Texting’ closes the album out with the album’s best couplet: “I’m looking at my phone thinking, am I going hit send or nah?” This song nails the problems that face modern lovebirds and is a perfect slow song with the ability to become a club favorite.
Brown’s lyrics sometimes reflect an otherwise enthusiast writer who doesn’t understand the cliches he proposes.
‘Autumn Leaves’ contains a superb beat with the best verse on the entire album, done by the one and only Kendrick Lamar. However, Brown’s lyric, ‘All the autumn leaves are falling and you seem like the only reason for it’ seems like a random thought that doesn’t make sense. Brown uses the proverb “Fool me once, shame on you” on the track ‘Stereotype,’ as if he’s trying to come across as original. Brown sings that he can ‘see right through the woman in the glass dress,’ contradicting the obvious fact that glass is transparent.
The second half of the album contains tracks that are cheesy and skippable. They sonically reproduce the same style and seem like filler space. However, there is a gem in the song ‘Don’t Be Gone Too Long,’ which shines as a highlight for it’s ambient, yet danceable beat and interesting dynamics.
Although half the album is good, the other half seems forced and clumsy. Perhaps Brown wanted to expose a more vulnerable side to himself due to his recent happenings. However, the only Chris Brown that’s worth listening to is the Chris Brown that fills your playlists with party-tunes and workout anthems.
Best Tracks: X, Don’t Be Gone Too Long (featuring Ariana Grande), Autumn Leaves (featuring Kendrick Lamar)
Buy, Spotify, or Nah?: Spotify