I think I realized something recently: I lowkey stan for Chris Brown.
His seventh studio album, Royalty, was released on December 18th and I was all excited. Chris’s music to me is like childbirth without a child at the end. I get all excited leading up to the release of new music from Chris, but forget about the pain of each delivery prior. With Royalty, it’s the same ol’ same ol’.
Chris’s first eponymous album was pure teen R&B that showcased an advanced sense of emotional maturity while still remaining within the realm of adolescence. Then the more adult Exclusive (see: “Take You Down”), with seamless blends of pop, hip-hop, and R&B, showed Chris settling more into his fame and having fun with tracks like “Kiss Kiss” and “Wall to Wall” while remaining true to his R&B roots with tracks like “With You.” Then there’s Graffiti. It came 10 months after the domestic violence incident with Rihanna. It had the potential to be great due to reflective tracks and once again great blending of R&B with pop & hip-hop, but due to the domestic violence incident, was his lowest selling album to date. After Graffiti, it pretty much all fell apart.
Chris Brown became a fuckboy. He took on the characteristics of your trifling neighborhood twitter nigga.
Although Royalty has almost no cohesion or common thread other than the various locales Chris wants to sleep with women in and bitterness, there are bright spots. Seeing as he titled the album after his daughter, you’d think there would be more tracks that she could possibly listen to or that were made with her in mind, but nah. Some are alright for her to listen to, but they’re not meant for children of any age. The one track dedicated to her though, “Little More (Royalty)” is a bit too ambiguous to be put in between tracks about drunken escapades with the closest woman and yet another gratuitous track about loyalty.
The album starts off with “Back To Sleep” and “Fine By Me.” Chris purports to possess the ability to “fuck you back to sleep” and says that although he wants a deeper connection with a woman, it’s fine by him if she only hits him up for sex.
“Wrist” is basically a leftover track from X.
Next we have “Make Love”. This is actually a highlight of the album. Smooth in composition, simple lyrical content, multilayered harmonies, good stuff. Chris expresses his love for a woman and croons about wanting to make sweet love to her. I’m feeling it.
“Liquor” isn’t what I’m looking for, but it’s welcome. He’s pretty good vocally, the beat is great, and it’s a great amount of raunch. He’s 26, so this type of music is expected and embraced. You’ll be able to catch me on my birthday two-stepping to this song with a red solo cup.
Then here we go with “Zero.” He almost got me because this beat is addicting. This lyrical content, though. The singing version of the ever-so bitter “I Don’t F*** With You” by Big Sean. Chris sings about how many “fucks he gives” about a woman who supposedly didn’t give much in the relationship. Can you guess how many? Yeah.
“Anyway” is another highlight. Over a dubstep infused R&B composition, Chris sings about accepting his lover no matter what baggage they come with. He shows more vulnerability and maturity than he’s shown recently.
“Picture Me Rollin’” is a west-coast inspired track of male bravado. He perfectly captures the west-coast feel with a modern twist. “Who’s Gonna (Nobody)” samples Keith Sweat’s “Nobody.” It’s just a song where Chris explains in explicit detail what he wants to do to his lover.
“Discover” is probably my favorite track on the album. It’s a pretty smooth R&B track where Chris realizes that he’s screwed up with his lover and when she leaves, he discovers that he loves her and has to get her back.
“Little Bit” and “Proof” are ‘hood love’ anthems where sex cures all relationship problems.
“KAE” is apparently the song about Karrueche. Here, Chris basically blames the failure of the relationship on her. He alludes to affairs she’s had and how she broke him down.
In the final track, “U Did Itl” Chris channels Future’s crying for help with verses about drug use, strippers and threesomes. Not the strongest way to finish, but hey.
Chris Brown came out on fire. Songs like “Run It” and “Yo (Excuse me Miss)” showed me the immense potential he had. He was an amazing dancer, a great singer, and a seemingly level-headed young man. When he did that tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards, I thought Chris had found his way back.
I don’t want to pathologize Chris, but it’s very apparent. There are definitely things that contributed to him being who he is today. Sexual abuse, witnessing his mother being in abusive relationships, and likely other things. With that being said, he needs to take responsibility for himself and become a young man he would be proud of.
Royalty seems like a cry for help from a conflicted young man. He doesn’t know if he’s to blame for his relationship failures or his lover or if he wants to have sex with some woman or make love to his girl. The songs, while good, are not cohesive enough for the structure of an album. You can make the argument (I certainly did at first) that his scattered thoughts about women, himself and relationships is cohesive. It’s showing that Chris is conflicted about everything in his life and the album is a representation. That could very well be the case, but that doesn’t make for a compelling album.
Chris is basically a singles artist at this point.
This is a clarion call to Christopher Maurice Brown. You are too talented and skilled to settle for making subpar music with no substance. You are more than able to make cohesive albums. I know this, because I’ve heard them. Music comes from within. If your personal life is a wreck, your music will be also. So. Take some time, gather yourself, do some soul searching, and blow us all away with the next album.
If you so choose, you can buy Royalty via iTunes here.
Reach Andre via Twitter to debate about Royalty and Chris Brown’s current state of his career.