After much delay, Chris Brown’s sixth studio album “X” was finally released on Tuesday. Brown is attempting to change the conversation from his personal life and troubles; making it all about the music on this new record.
A highlight of “X” is Brown’s multiple collaborations with the top R&B singers in the game. Brown’s decision to work with some of his favorite artists who have influenced his sound (Brandy, Usher) and his R&B peers (Trey Songz, Jhene Aiko) was wise. It all amounts to an album that gives a full spectrum of music.
On the opening title track (“X”) Brown sings adamantly that he isn’t going back and that he’s moving on. He makes a bold statement that he’s just here to party and have fun.
This album is also unapologetically sexual. “X,” the album, is just as much for the bedroom as it is for the clubs. R. Kelly and Akon make guest appearances on bawdy sexual tracks. On the album, we hear a bedroom romp collaboration on “Songs on 12 Play” with Songz, which almost sounds juvenile compared to R. Kelly’s guest appearance on a later track.
Kelly helps give Brown a lesson on how to make a proper “12 play” track with “Drown In It.” The song with its tongue and cheek lyrics is a highlight of the album. Brown has the answer for Beyoncé’s surfboard line singing, “I can see a million ways for me to surfboard between your waves.”
Brown is one of a handful of R&B artists that are able to deliberately get away with using auto-tune and synthesized vocals on most of their album. He enlists the help of auto-tune strong hold Akon on the track “Came to Do” which is a nice breezy jam, almost a throwback to some of Brown’s earlier tracks like “Run It” or “Off the Wall.”
We continue to hear the influence of Brown’s idols such as Michael Jackson and Prince. The silky track “Time for Love” is very reminiscent of both artists. On a mid-tempo track like this Brown truly shines because he’s able to just go with the flow. “Body Shots” is another inspired dance track that uses awesome DJ techniques that slope around Brown’s vocals.
Brown doesn’t stray away from the pop and dance hits that have made him huge. There are cool pop records like “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” and “Stereotype,” which have a nice appeal and will certainly catch a broad range of listeners’ attention. “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” is an epic track that is complimented by subtle background vocals from Ariana Grande and it could prove to be a major hit.
On “Autumn Leaves” Brown echoes just how much he wants to fall back to his former lover. The guest appearance from Kendrick Lamar on this track takes the it to another level. Lamar, who is the king of the underdog rappers, delivers an almost roving verse that does compliment Brown’s moody vocal on the song.
The bombastic collaboration “Do Better” between Brandy and Brown proves to be a win on this album. The two had a nice hit with “Put it Down” on Brandy’s “Two Eleven” album but this new track proves to be a more grown-up record. The vocals are amazing and leave the listener wanting more.
A nice groove is found on the song “Drunk Texting.” Singer Jhene Aiko, who isn’t always as strong on her own records, is a nice addition to this track. It’s a soft but hard record, that some fans may be able to relate to.
One downfall of “X” is that it almost seems like it could be split in half. It’s not an album that aims to tell a specific story. It’s very clear that every single record is manufactured for a particular format and taste. There are your options of radio singles, club tracks, and sexy jams so you can choose how you feel at the moment.
The “X” album is everything you’d expect from Brown right now. We’re given a small glimpse inside the mind of Brown, who has had a tumultuous rise to fame. But as usual, we’re left wondering who the real Chris Brown is. I guess for now the mystery works as long as the music continues to e”X”cite us.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
Standout Tracks: “New Flame,” “Came to Do,” “Do Better,” “Drown In It,” “Don’t Be Gone Too Long,” “Lost in Ya Love” (from the deluxe version)
Michael Howard is a contributor for RatedRnb.com — Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelHowardTV