Words by Shenequa Golding
Chris Brown has endured a lot. Sometimes because he’s been his own worst enemy, and other times because he’s been the only enemy people could blame.
Yet despite the constant distractions (even the self-inflicted ones), Chris kept the music a priority and has released his long awaited album X. The 20-song double disc opens with the reflective title track, which finds Chris realizing his choice of friends (or girlfriends) may have contributed to his very public pitfalls.
If you’re only as good as the company you keep, than I’mma blame you for what they say about me.
While sonically the Diplo-production starts out as traditional R&B, it then snakes into a hauntingly electronic sound before exploding into full blown EDM. Diplo maintains enough balance for the two musical genres to blend equally without either one dominating.
Brown switches gears on the up-tempo “Add Me.” While it sounds like it could’ve been the younger cousin to “Fine China,” Brown clumsily employs mathematic theories (“your body is an isosceles”) to describe this woman’s perfect proportions. However, it’s the old-school 80s feel that helps listeners overlook the cliché sexual innuendos Eric Bellinger penned. (Sorry Eric.)
The album’s brief continuity is lost with “Loyal” but regained with “New Flame,” a sweet musical pocket both Breezy and UrsherBaby dwell well in, but it’s after this point that things get sloppy.
Double-discs are always ambitious. Most artists go into the studio to record and the music begins to reveal itself, forming a theme the artist can either run with or trash. Deciding which song to place on a project after hours of studio sessions is difficult. These songs become more than just little jingles, they’re musical DNA and not placing them on a project is tormenting. So in essence, a double-disc is an artist’s way of saying “I couldn’t decide. I loved them all,” which is all fine and Kosher until you have songs and topics repeating themselves.
Fellow Virginia brethren Trey Songz joins Breezy for “Songs on 12 Play.” The R&B duo pay their respect to R. Kelly and his iconic 1993 debut album, but it pales in comparison to “Drownin in It” featuring the pied piper himself.
“Songs On 12 Play” is the younger sister wearing a push up bra with improperly applied red lipstick trying to be sexy. Conversely, Kelly’s smooth tenor is still intact on “Drownin” as he and Brown sing of the joys of cunnilingus. The music is full, encompassing and robust. It’s not trying to be sexy, it just is.
“Came To Do” with Akon is one of the album’s most shallow and unnecessary records as it echoes the same sentiments as “Add Me.” However, the Free School and Jean Baptiste produced “Time for Love” continues the “Fine China” dynasty and even borrows some of “Add Me’s” mathematical lyrical equations.
In essence, there are three of the same songs on the same album. Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” debuted on her first solo project and “Déjà vu” which encapsulated the “Crazy in Love” sound was on B-Day. Fans could still hear the similarities, but at least they were separated by an album and a tour.
The project’s biggest collaboration also proved to be the biggest shoulder shrug. “Autumn Leaves” while melodic, only offers a sprinkle of Brown’s softer side; but it’s “Do Better” featuring Brandy, the album’s not so buzzed about collaboration, that exposes all of Brown’s darkest demons. The songstress joins him on the second verse and the two sing of being so heartbroken that suicide is the only thing that can ease their pain. “When you told me it’s over. Ain’t no point in being sober. All I wanna do is fade away.”
Unfortunately, the R&B momentum is lost when he introduces the Mumford & Sons esque “See You Around.” While I’m all for Brown venturing into new musical territory, I don’t want to hear a song that sounds as if he’s trying to regain his Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum endorsement deal back.
If you’re going to venture into the pop world make sure your songs sound as well-packaged as Brown’s “Don’t Be Gone Too Long.” The beat is familiar, steady and has all the right fixin’s to open him up to different audiences, without sounding like he’s waving at all his pop friends inside the pop club to come and vouch for him outside with an angry bouncer.
It’s hit or miss for the remainder of the project. “Body Shots” is sonically confusing and does way too much, like too many different seasonings were used on a single piece of chicken. “Drunk Texting” is actually what the song suggests and musically leaves you tipsy.
The album’s last stand out record is “Don’t Think They Know” featuring Aaliyah. It’s ‘90s R&B through and through with hints of what rhythm and blues passes for today. Brown sings of being undeserving of an unconditional love and warning his woman to tune out the noise from other people. But it’s hearing Aaliyah’s voice that’s so comforting and the Jon B sample isn’t a bad touch either.
However, for X Brown didn’t need 20 songs. He would’ve been cool with 12 and one interlude. One of the biggest drawbacks is the project’s length. A 60 minute album in a Snapchat society is too much especially when you’re musically repeating yourself.
It’s like Brown had on a really nice suit, but messed it up by bathing himself in too much cologne.
Less is more, Breezy. Less. Is. More.