Chris Brown | X (RCA)

cd chris-brownBrown’s life to this point seems engulfed in the superficial and uncertainty of the twenties.




“You’re only as good as the company you keep/ I’m a blame you for what they say about me”; these lines open X, Chris Brown’s sixth studio album. I would say this album showcases Brown’s growth from young boy to young man, but I’m not sure I can.

Though Brown’s vocals have matured, his subject matter has gone from R&B enlaced with love to hard-ass R&B that addresses the hoes and sex. This is nowhere more obvious than the album’s lead track “Loyal.” I’m guessing the love got lost after he discovered he couldn’t do anything for her. “New Flame,” featuring Usher and Rick Ross, gives a reflective glimpse of Brown’s F.A.M.E. album, as its upbeat tempo makes you feel good and the lyrics give me hope that all is not lost with this release.

As I have followed Brown’s career from his self-titled first album to now, I consider myself a fan. One thing I’ve noticed more than anything is just how sexual he has become. It’s not a bad thing per se but the context in which he chooses to express it is a bit of a turn off. This experience is not just for a special love, but it seems to be for everyone; I don’t know about you, but I want to listen to a song that makes me feel like I’m getting the special treatment.

Brown attempts to rekindle that kind of ’90s showcase of lovemaking with “Songs on 12 Play,” featuring Trey Songz. It’s obviously a track that pays homage to the R&B legend R. Kelly and his infamous 12 Play album: It’s enticing, conveying palpable anticipation through the sultry vocals of Brown and Songz. The next song comes as no surprise: Featuring R. Kelly and entitled “Drown in It,” it presents blatant graphic details and highly sexual innuendos.

“Came to Do” is for all the ladies, but while Brown and Akon are detailing the fairer sex’s beautiful features, the singer reiterates that he came to do one thing, and it’s not love her. This half of X reintroduces the Chris Brown I love. He has feelings. He’s reflective and puts those things to work against the music. “Stereotype” has the melody of a hyperactive trumpet, slightly distorted and steadied by snare drums in the baseline. Heartbroken and blindsided is what he feels as he recants the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on me/ Fool me twice should’ve known that it would be problems girl with you/ But I thought you were different my baby/ now I see you’re just like the rest.”

If you remember the feel-good days of the 1990s, rolling around the skating rink while jamming to the best music (while also not busting your butt), “Time for Love” is the perfect tune for you. In this carefree love track, you, lady, can do what you like as long as you love him, too.

The start of a new season usually causes you to evaluate your life. From your decisions to the people in your life, you begin to sort out emotions and all of the situations you’ve encountered until now. “Autumn Leaves” highlights Brown’s apprehension about the path his life is taking. He’s uncertain if everything is right, but he knows it soon will be with that special girl by his side. The best part about this song is Kendrick Lamar’s verse. He blesses the track with words that could be seen as advice to Brown, but are really self-reflections of himself that anyone with newfound spotlight can relate to.

“When you make mistakes the most one day it’ll make you grow/ When you outlandish and you lose manners to God you shall consult/ When the bright cameras are still cramming in your face and it provoke/ You to act mannish, just stay planted ’cause you’re reaping what you sow.”

Crossing paths with our past is inevitable, and so is writing about it. That’s what Brown does in “Do Better” featuring Brandy. It’s a toxic relationship, and ending it could also be the end of each party involved. “See You Around” tells a story of regret and love taken for granted. The vocals on song are warm and filled with a sorrow that only love lost can match. Listening to the lyrics, you can visualize the coffee shop meeting of the two lovers post-break up, as he pours out his soul about how he should’ve been a better man and a better lover. (Maybe it’s about Rihanna, maybe it’s about Karreuche: You be the judge.) Never to leave an album on a somber note, Brown concludes X with the dance-infused “Don’t Be Gone Too Long,” urban techno track “Body Shots,” and a bass-filled duet with Jhene Aiko “Drunk Texting,” which I absolutely love.

While most of us create music of our lives filled with tales of triumphs and failures, love created and love lost, Brown’s life to this point seems engulfed in the superficial and uncertainty of the twenties. He wants to make a point not to love these “hoes,” while treating the women he cares about no different than a one-night stand. I don’t hate Brown for this, but it’s this new-school R&B about which the singers are rapping (pun intended) of which I’m not a fan. Bring back the days of Jagged Edge, Jaheim, Case, and Musiq, where the music spoke of the nastiness of relationships, never forgetting about love and how to treat a lady. C | Ashley White

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