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R&B - Released June 29, 2012 | RCA Records Label
F.A.M.E. was Chris Brown's first album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200. Five of its singles went Top Five R&B/Hip-Hop, and it took the Grammy for Best R&B Album. The singer clearly feels more emboldened than ever, as he declares in Fortune's second song, the slow motion boom and wobble that is "Bassline": "I'm winnin', you heard about my image, but I could give a flyin' motherfuck who's offended." Save for a handful of quasi-sensitive ballads that come across as insincere, Fortune is an album of unapologetic swashbuckling. There are few dimensions. In "Bassline," Brown demands "Get butt naked to my bassline." The hook to "Sweet Love" begins with "Baby, let's get naked." That song is followed by "Strip," as in "Girl, I just wanna see you strip." Those three lines are among Fortune's cleanest. Even the atmospheric, impeccably-produced ballad "2012" -- involving some kind of Mayan apocalypse scenario where Brown and his lover are called upon to reverse the planet's fate -- gets graphic. Each line, from "Can you feel my submarine?" to "Girl, I like the way it opens up when you throw it back," has something shameless about it, while "I got that pillow for your knees right here" is the closest Brown gets to selflessness. All the way at the other end of the spectrum, "Girl, you better not change your mind" -- a prelude to the one-night stand in "Biggest Fan" -- is this album's "Don't you be on that bullshit," though it is beyond insolent. None of the dance tracks, including the graceless "Turn Up the Music" (featuring some strange likeness to Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy") and the shrill "Don't Wake Me Up," rivals Brown's past highlights. From a creative standpoint, this is more a leap than a step backward. Some of the productions, courtesy of the Runners, Adonis, and Kevin McCall, save it from being a disaster. ~ Andy Kellman
R&B - Released December 4, 2009 | Zomba
Most of Graffiti -- that is, the songs that do not detail what ex-girlfriend Rihanna and the rest of the world have done to him -- is a natural progression for Chris Brown. Like many young cred-seeking male singers who have just exited their teenage years, Brown clumsily emphasizes womanizing and hedonism and balances it out with a couple clean and empty ballads. Out of this portion of the album, only a couple songs leave a lasting impression, and when they do, the silly things that come out of Brown’s mouth tend to be the reason; take “As stingy as you are, I think you ready,” part of “Take My Time”’s chorus and hopefully no woman’s idea of an effective bedroom line. A two-track patch of gloopy and gawky Euro-pop, where he’s on slightly better behavior, is at least more tolerable than the inane chest-puffing, but nothing comes close to the big singles from Brown’s first two releases. The rest of this album could not have been voiced by anyone but a brat who pleaded guilty to the felonious assault of his pop star girlfriend, one who considers himself a victim. On “Famous Girl,” sonically sprightly but otherwise acidic and full of contradictions, Brown cries foul at being cheated upon by his “heartless” ex but taunts “I might have cheated in the beginning.” He accuses her of being a heartbreaker and then boasts “I’ve broken my share of hearts.” Another jab, “I was wrong for writing ‘Disturbia,'” makes it plain that the song is about Rihanna. Both “Falling Down” and the sarcastically titled “Lucky Me” could lead a onetime sympathizer to fantasize about pulling a Chris Brown on Chris Brown. In these songs, Brown is exceptionally insufferable, conveying that his unimaginable wealth and social privileges are no consolation for being put through the ringer. “Even though I’m so damaged, I gotta pick myself up and perform for the crowd” is capped with “You don’t even know how hard it is, do you?” He also lets his listeners know that he has had to do photo shoots when he has not felt like smiling, and that he has “given up everything in exchange for being alone.” Maybe his supporters should be considerate and assist in putting the young man out of his misery. If they stop purchasing his recordings, concert tickets, and merchandise, the evil entertainment industry, all media outlets, and predatorial heartbreakers will lose interest and loosen their grip on him. ~ Andy Kellman
R&B - Released November 14, 2005 | Jive
The week "Run It!" was released, it went straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and became the first single from a male artist to debut at that spot. That's no slight feat, especially for a reheated version of Usher's "Yeah!" made by a fresh-faced teenager who reps a little town in Virginia that rhymes with "grab a hammock." On "Run It!," Chris Brown is boosted by production from Scott Storch and an appearance by Juelz Santana. The song's way of tempering Brown's small-town innocence with hard-edged backing and a guest spot from an MC of ill repute is clearly a strategy to make the singer appeal to more than tween girls. (Had Brown been coming up in the early '90s, Quincy Jones -- not Dr. Dre -- might've produced him and Prince -- not Luther Campbell -- might've assisted, which just goes to show how much R&B has changed in 15 years.) Chris Brown, a durable debut album, almost always involves an even push-and-pull between what appeals to kids who don't consider street credibility and those who do, all the way down to the visuals: check the album cover, featuring the singer's strained "Don't mess with me!" face, and compare it to the photo spread inside, featuring Brown's natural "Pinch my cheeks!" face. He doesn't often try to sound harder or more demonstrative than necessary, unlike a lot of singers his age who have sprouted during the late '90s and early 2000s, and he rarely oversteps the kind of romantic territory that most teens find relatable. Toughness comes instead from the beats, whether they're provided by the Underdogs, Dre & Vidal, Cool & Dre, or the overworked Storch. While Brown's audience will be almost exclusively 18 and under, few of his fans will feel sheepish in owning this album. He's a refreshing presence, a high-schooler who's neither as family friendly as Will Smith nor as comically vulgar as Pretty Ricky. ~ Andy Kellman
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