Touted as one of the most talented entertainers in the music industry, Chris Brown seems to always have outside factors taking away from his music. Just earlier this year, the talented 25 year-old spent 4 months in jail for previous convictions. But since his release, he’s seemed to have turned a new leaf and decided to mature a little. And that decision is ever-present in his new album X.
Right off the bat, one would look at the tracklisting and think, “21 songs? Oh god…”. But CB did an excellent job at picking the right 21 songs. Normally, this tactic is saved for rappers and mixtapes. But what Chris did was, since this album took almost two years to come out (and was spear-headed by 5 singles), he added all of his 2013 singles as bonus songs. This not only made the album super strong, but made the main album feel very fresh.
It wouldn’t be a Chris Brown album without an obvious tribute to Michael Jackson. The Danja-produced “Add Me In” is just that: an MJ-inspired uptempo jam! “Lost In Ya Love”, a deluxe track that’s admittedly not too impressive, but super groovy in the moment.
A Chris Brown album also wouldn’t be complete without a couple of bedroom bangers. And Breezy called the bedroom king himself, R. Kelly, for the album’s most vivid and sexual jam, “Drown In It.” Pretty self-explanatory, to say the least. That’s not the only R. Kelly themed song on the album, as CB also teamed up with Trey Songz for a slow jam entitled, “Songs on 12 Play”, alluding to R. Kelly’s classic debut album, 12 Play. It’s a song I’m sure Mimi Faust and Nikko (of ‘Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta’ fame) could appreciate, as it’s all about getting down on camera.
Aside from the obvious R&B party jams that we’re used to from Chris Brown (“Loyal”, “Count On Me”), this album sees Chris Brown’s maturity in his song-writing abilities. Songs like “Autumn Leaves” featuring Kendrick Lamar, and “Do Better” featuring Brandy are key examples of this. The lyrical depth in these two songs specifically make them instant standouts. On “Autumn Leaves”, Chris Brown talks about all of his life mishaps and seeks redemption, while Kendrick comes in with a fury verse full of advice. It’s “Deuces” older, more experienced cousin.
If you leave this time I fear that you’ll be gone for good
So I hold on like leaves and fall to what is left
Said her father left her young and
He said he’ll be back with that same
Tone that you just said you’ll stay forever with
The Brandy duet “Do Better” gets even more personal, with Chris singing lines like “I’m starting to hate me”. CB is doing some serious self-reflection, dealing with his past actions and failed relationships. And his chemistry with Brandy heightens the duet to levels Chris has yet to go with his career.
I’m starting to hate me
A little more and more each day
I don’t know me
It’s like I can’t get out of my own way
You don’t love me, you don’t love me
If I knew better, I would do it better
“See You Around” is another standout, for me at least. It’s a new sound for Chris. Instantly, I’m reminded of the folk/pop sounds of One Direction’s “Story Of My Life” and One Republic’s recent singles. And I love it. Chris Brown is no stranger to pop music, so I’m glad that he made this song for fans of the genre. He should do it more often as this is amazing, and could very well be a top 10 single.
This album isn’t perfect, it’s far from it. “Count On Me” is an obvious rehash of “Loyal”, “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” sounds unfinished with the replacement of Ariana Grande’s vocal with that of a demo singer, and “Body Shots” is close to being greatness, but wasn’t sequenced well enough to be considered a smash. At 15/16 songs, this album would’ve been the best R&B release of the year. But it is Chris’ most cohesive album, and it shows his growth. Chris is at a point in his life where he’s tired of the bad boy image he’s garnered over the years. He’s starting to talk about marriage and babies with his long-time girlfriend Karreuche, so ‘X’ may be the start of a new Chris Brown. A better Chris Brown. His next album should be even more focused, even more mature; and something critics can’t bet against, if ‘X’ is anything to go by. As far as future singles, Chris has plenty to choose from, but we’d expect to hear the mature “fall” sounds of “Autumn Leaves” featuring Kendrick Lamar or the instantaneously catchy and relatable “Drunk Texting” featuring Jhene Aiko on the radio very soon.