22 January 2015

Chris Brown - X

We all have our pet peeves to varying degrees, and if there's one genre or a few I will try to avoid at all costs, it's Hip Hop, R & B (incorrectly labelled in my opinion) and Pop. They really do not do anything for me, least of all not giving me any musical enrichment. One of my biggest beefs is the amount of producers and composers it takes to make a pop album and my simple question is why? Does it really take a classroom size of people to cut their teeth on one? Call me grumpy and outdated, but this apparently is the norm and of course with me not reviewing much bubblegum trash, let alone the other bloggers here, this was palmed onto me probably against my will.

Needs must, so onwards. Chris Brown as I'm sure many of you are already aware is an R & B artist more noted by the general public for a physical altercation with Rihanna which has sort of landed him in deep doo doo. Still, seems not to have affected his musical career and this underwhelming titled album X is his sixth even though he's barely reached his mid-twenties. Again, I've not followed his progress at all, so I'm stepping in with a clear and open mind, albeit with minimal expectations and hopefully with better judgement on my side.

First glance on the Spotify list tells me that 17 tracks on X is just far too many and not enough to warrant it a double album. Title track starts fine, a few lavish yet minimal string driven keyboarding, and Mr Brown has taken his time in the lyrical writing but doesn't really get going with a few childlike bleeps thrown in as pep. Add Me In is the next track, easy flowing with some curious geometry references, it's 1980s flavoured with Harold Faltermeyer layers and a steady improvement on the previous. X as far as I see is simply an R & B Who's Who and the first guests on the album are Lil Wayne and Tyga. Sounds ridiculous and not well penned, as a lay I'm guessing they're referring to getting laid and advocating all forms of excess in life.

Thankfully, CB has some older shoulders backing him well, with a certain Usher whom I will concede is still a sharp vocalist and some rapper in Rick Ross. Starts off promisingly too till it condescends in a tale of soliciting. This is turning out to be the whole theme right throughout X and I really am not impressed by it. R Kelly makes his appearance in Drown In It, and about mid point into the album, his hand in writing and production does feel much more grown up and ashamedly I will admit I do like this track. All the fine touches Mr Kelly had in the 1990s hasn't been lost on him. Now onto Came To Do, guest starring Akon (the Lonely artist who if I remember had Pinky And Perky on the chorals). For me it's flat and ungainly, it really isn't going anywhere, so moving on eagerly.

First track unassisted in quite some time is Stereotype, Chris Brown putting his hand on a tongue tying chorus, but even the garnish is rather thick even here and Time For Love feels like a heavily sampled Lionel Richie, at least it flows reasonably well. Lady In A Glass Dress (Interlude) by contrast ends all too soon long before it's able to spread its wings. Coming towards the business side now and Autumn Leaves features Kendrick Lamar with his curious Hip Hop flow till some acerbic touches towards the end of it. Next track is Do Better and next guest is Brandy, she is a smart singer and slots in very nicely but Do Better is too badly cliche ridden.

See You Around is a marked improvement in the album's fortunes, sounds more mature, on a par with Drown In It, likewise next track Don't Be Too Long, and I do like the octave split harmonies. Getting better now? Regrettably no as we're back into sex, drugs etc etc with Body Shots, for me, too many hoes and bitches and motherfuckers for my tastes. Sorry but it's all too tiresome and all imagination in the writing has been thrown out of the window. Drunk Texting feels like another one destined to implode, HOWEVER, it's a really compelling narrative, and good duetting with Jhene Aiko. Another top album track contender.

Seventeen tracks is the official number. However, he's somehow found time and space to slot in another four. First of these is Lost In Ya Love, bit forgettable and rather repetitive, drab filler. Next is Love More featuring Nicki Minaj, a real pet hate of mine, she really has minimal talent if any, and put simply it is plain shit full stop. The late Aaliyah (sadly gone long before her time) by contrast adds in a good strong flavouring with Don't Think They Know, a call to end gun violence and poverty. Heavily sampled yes, but a rare occasion where the sampling really does work. Final track is Fine China, apparently harking back to the heroes of MOBO, eg Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and a steadfast sign off to the record, so not exactly the catastrophic disaster I was half expecting.

But in truth this is probably the first album I've listened to on Spotify where I dearly wished they played a few more commercials as a brief respite would be a welcoming relief. I've only played this once, and believe me, once is enough for this. As mentioned earlier, too many tracks, too many songwriters, too many rappers, and too many producers, it's no exaggeration to say the credits list is infinitely as exhaustive as the track list. Too much of the same theme of sex and excess running through, and while there are many plus points of X they're all outweighed by the minus's. It's my suspicion that Chris Brown has had more material in the bag for this but I honestly dread to conceive if they were ever included....

4 out of ten. Well, it is alright, but still....
Best Track : Drown In It (with R. Kelly)

Buy the album here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
Listen to the album here on Deezer
Official Chris Brown Facebook page here
Official Chris Brown UK website here

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