Chris Brown – F.A.M.E. | Album Review

Since his last studio album, Graffiti, Chris Brown has worked on a host of features and mixtapes and kept his PR machine turning, trying to repair the damage done by the infamous incident with Rihanna. Now, Breezy puts forward his latest effort in the form of his fourth studio album, F.A.M.E.

Unfortunately, this album doesn’t do much to reinforce the promise Brown showed in his early days. His debut and sophomore albums suggested he had a lot to offer and would take up the mantle of one of the world of music’s best performers and artists – however, this album is not an example of someone who could carry on the legacy of the likes of Michael Jackson or even Usher.

We’ve heard too much of it before. ‘Deuces’ and ‘No Bullshit’ seem almost ancient at this point, especially in today’s music industry where so much music is released so quickly that a month old song just doesn’t have the same impact – and they both have little apart from evoking a, “Yeah, this is a tune… but it’s old now,” – neither song with enough substance to be timeless. Sadly, the same can be said for ‘Yeah 3x’ and ‘Look At Me Now,’ featuring Lil’ Wayne and a blinding verse from Busta Rhymes.

‘She Ain’t You,’ which was leaked not too long back, is a great number but only for the parts which remain of the original SWV and Michael Jackson samples. The ‘Human Nature’ sample and the drums from ‘Right Here,’ as well as the subsequent melody jacking from both songs, remain the strongest parts of the song and the ones that shine through the most. Chris Brown’s lyrics add nothing to the song and in terms of the production, a few synth pads and sound effects do nothing either.

I understand Chris Brown is trying to reach out to the clubs, but I don’t always appreciate it. For example, ‘Beautiful People’ featuring Benny Benassi is nothing but the swarming sound of Europop R&B, which I believe is so tired to my ears that it barely even registers a tickle in my brain. Brown’s effort to reach out to the Pop crowd is perhaps a little more tolerable on ‘Next 2 You,’ featuring Justin Bieber, but only marginally.

The album itself seems too long. 17 tracks on the Deluxe version and then the bonus iTunes track, ‘Champion’ with the UK’s own Chipmunk, and it’s overkill; I found myself moving through the album swiftly on a second listen and still wondering when it was going to end. Add to that the fact that some songs just morph into one another – for instance ‘Bomb,’ featuring Wiz Khalifa, into ‘Love Them Girls’ featuring Game – and this album became very tiresome to listen to.

Was there anything positive about the album? Sure there was. The more R&B flavoured ‘Up 2 You’ produced by The Underdogs was a more musical, yet still very ‘current’ sound. The Chris Brown/Underdogs partnership has always been a good one. ‘Wet The Bed’ featuring Ludacris is also in the same vein; more of a classic R&B sound, that can be played for a few months without sounding old and tired, as both songs are well-written and well-produced and Brown’s voice and style are best suited to this kind of song.

UK producer Harmony/H-Money makes very credible contributions to this album in the form of ‘Say It With Me’ and ‘Oh My Love’ [plus bonus track ‘Champion’]. His production style on both are very reminiscent of the better portion of Timbaland’s productions, yet he still has his own style and flavour – although the writing on both tracks is a little disappointing on Brown’s part.

Whilst we’re on the subject of Timbaland, he makes a welcome musical contribution to the album in the form his production ‘Paper, Scissors, Rock’ featuring ascending star Big Sean. The beat is almost everything that was good about Timbaland’s production, but seems to be missing samples of baby’s crying and birds chirping. Again, the writing is a little disappointing, but this beat is likely to go hard in a club.

An overall disappointing album; I’m still waiting for Chris Brown to live up to his early promise. To be honest, the cover art should have implied what to expect: a lackluster effort, which had too many songs and not enough substance, with little in the way of class. Too much of the album was already heard, so the impact of the better songs was not felt in the slightest. Although there are promising signs of Chris Brown’s strengths, backed by good production, it feels he’s trying to give too much all at once – something for the clubs, something for the bedroom, something for those breaking up and something for the kids… Spread too thinly, perhaps he should have concentrated on the R&B he does best.

F.A.M.E. is out on March 21st (UK) / 22nd (US) via RCA/Jive.

Pre-order F.A.M.E.: iTunes US / UK; Amazon US / UK

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