Chris Brown had a rough two years in the media. After assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, his usual life of “running it” has been turned upside-down — instead of the usual radio releases and European tours he was once accustomed to, the artist has been busy with court dates and community service. It’s a scandal that has shaken Brown’s fanbase worldwide, even leading to the cancellation of his UK tour. Being a woman-beater and a smooth-talking R&B artist just isn’t easy — felony charges have a way of overshadowing even the most heartfelt love songs.
By releasing his album F.A.M.E., Chris Brown hopes to right his wrongs and reclaim his career from the hands of the tabloids. His second release since the 2009 incident, the album plays on slow tempos and feelings of vulnerability to rebuild his romantic image. It’s a desperate cry to be restored to his former self — a sensitive ladies’ man instead of a brute with battered knuckles and a criminal record.
Brown’s road to redemption begins with “Deuces.” It’s a smooth, seductive song peppered with rapping and percussion, snappy and rhythmic without being too aggressive. However, the track’s true colors shine through its horrendously crafted lyrics: Chris Brown and the rappers Tyga and Kevin McCall join forces to deliver some of the most generic lines to enter the FM radio waves. The three whine together about the horrors of relationships and falling in love as they describe past Valentine’s Days and all times they texted their ladies without receiving replies.
The sob-fest reaches is its peak when the words “fuck love” are declared — it’s a dramatic, unoriginal statement that would feel right at home in a preteen’s AIM profile. Despite their idiocy, the lyrics still accomplish one of the album’s goals: They portray Chris Brown as being the helpless victim of relationships — a far cry from the violent felon he’s been known as more recently.
F.A.M.E.’s other tracks follow in the footstep of “Deuces,” as they spin their not-so-subtle messages. With lyrics like “I’m not gonna be the one to mess this up” and “I never wanted us to break up,” Brown’s goal to sound defenseless is obvious. No matter what the specific premise of each song is or which DJs and featured rappers help lay down his tracks, he is always the victim of heartache.
Even with such tiresome themes, the quality of the album’s music is undeniable. With their intricate drum patterns and rhythmic rapping, some of the tracks are downright catchy — especially the album’s finale, “Beautiful People.” The song, which features techno superstar Benny Benassi, makes up for its overly conventional lyrics with tantalizing beats and synthesizer. The house-style instrumentals are blissful, hypnotizing and more powerful than the vocals themselves, drowning out every predictable “just live your life” and “your beauty’s deep inside.”
The fragile-hearted sentiments in F.A.M.E. may lose their sparkle after a few songs, but there’s still something to be said about the album’s persistence. By pushing these emotions to their limits, Chris Brown has proven more than just his vulnerability — he’s shown his dedication to his career as well. Only time can tell whether or not the album is enough to reshape his image, but the artist has at least one thing on his side: If he was able to bounce back after his laughable guest performance on “The O.C.” in 2007, anything is possible.