Chris Brown – X

Chris Brown has finally released his highly anticipated sixth studio album, ‘X’. Despite being pushed back on multiple occasions due to Breezy’s bad boy persona – appearing in court, a stint in rehab and management issues – ‘X’ finally hit shelves this week, and it’s something we’ve been eagerly waiting for since the release of first single ‘Fine China‘ in early 2013.

Talking about the album, Brown reveals “I tried to stay away from the Euro beats, and not go totally pop. Instead, I wanted to take the Quincy Jones approach. The record pays homage to the Stevie Wonders, the Michael Jacksons, the Sam Cookes.” He continues, “I wanted to put that classic essence of R&B and soul with the new age of music now. There’s a lot of live instruments, and a lot less auto-tune. I really wanted to demonstrate my vocal ability, creating the vibe of me singing along with a band.”

But, has it worked? Releasing a massive 6 singles before the album was in our hands, the 24 year old is taking a huge risk with the delayed release of ‘X’. The deluxe version is a lengthly 21 tracks, including an impressive 13 guest appearances from the likes of Trey Songz, Kendrick Lamar, R Kelly, Usher, and the upcoming single with Ariana Grande. So, track by track, what did we think of Chris Browns return?

X‘ begins with it’s title track, a dub-dropping explosive opener which see’s Brown growling the lyrics “I swear to god I’m moving on”. It may not be the best song we’ve ever heard, but the Diplo produced effort certainly grabs our attention to listen on.

Track 2, ‘Add Me In‘, is laced with so much Michael Jackson influence it could probably sit comfortably on ‘Bad’ without question. The only thing that lets it down is it’s corny math-themed lyrics about dividing legs and subtracting boyfriends, but somehow, Chris Brown makes it work, and this is one of the stand outs on ‘X’ – could this be another dangerous move being so early on the album? But, before we have time to worry, we’re greeted with single ‘Loyal‘ (below), without a doubt one of Brown’s strongest releases of his career. Another single follows, this time featuring the likes of music mogul Usher and Rick Ross. ‘New Flame‘ just makes us question why there wasn’t a Brown and Usher collab sooner, because it’s exactly what you’d expect from the R’n’B duo – including sly references to Ushers 2008 hit ‘Love In This Club‘ throughout the chorus.

The collaborations continue on track 5, where Trey Songz croons in with his smooth, sexual, easily recognised vocals. Paying homage to R Kelly’s 1993 debut album, ‘Song On 12 Play‘ slithers out the lyrics “your body’s calling me, and with your permission let me start your ignition” so yes, it’s exactly what you expected from the pair. Brown and Songz recently teased fans with the idea of a collaborative tour, and lets just say if this song is anything to go by, don’t take your kids along to a show…

The ‘101‘ interlude screams Drake, and it’s not unwelcome. Brown gets the opportunity on this 1 minute filler to showcase his vocals – something often lost amongst auto-tune on older releases. R Kelly himself makes an appearance on track 7, ‘Drown In It‘, where you just need to imagine a part 2 to ‘F.A.M.E.’s ‘Wet The Bed‘ and you’ve got it all in one. By track 8 were starting to wonder if there’s any solo efforts from Brown on ‘X’, as ‘Came To Do‘ features Akon. Sounding like Loyal but no where near as good, this is unfortunately a blatant album filler with repetitive lyrics and recognised beats.

Brown’s back on his own for the next handful of tunes. From the repetitive claps throughout ‘Stereotype‘, to the pop sounds of ‘Time For Love‘ and the second of the interludes with ‘Lady In A Glass Dress‘, these three unfortunately seem to follow the filler theme, not holding any real place on the album. It doesn’t help that the highly anticipated Kendrick Lamar feature is following, making these songs become easy skippers.

Autumn Leaves‘ combines a unlikely contrast of Browns soft vocals and simmering guitars with Kendrick’s aggressive rap and drum beats. The only issue with this track, is that Kendrick completely takes over, making this sound like Brown is the featuring artist – being upstaged on your own album isn’t something artists aim for, however, we can see this being a definite audience pleaser. Then the raspy sounds of Brandy continues the features, when ‘Do Better‘ fills our speakers. This seems to be a critics favourite, and would undeniably be the definition of a 90’s R’n’B anthem if there was one.

Chris Brown with Ariana Grande for 'Don't Be Gone Too Long'

Chris Brown with Ariana Grande for ‘Don’t Be Gone Too Long’

If you’re not one for long albums, by now you’re probably thinking about switching off, but fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately if you do switch off) ‘X’ see’s some of the strongest entries towards the end of the record on the deluxe version. ‘See You Around‘ pleasantly reminds us of 2012 release ‘Don’t Wake Me Up‘, this time minus the awful auto-tune. The biggest disappointment of the album comes on track 15, when Ariana Grande doesn’t really make much of an entrance at all with her average vocals throughout ‘Don’t Be Gone Too Long‘. With a voice as big as hers, we’re surprised there was no belting solo from the 21 year old pop princess, and the song as a whole doesn’t really go anywhere.

Track 16 revisits the EDM category with dub-drops similar to album opener ‘X’. Unfortunately, ‘Bodyshots‘ is just tedious repetition and a waste of 3 and a half minutes on an already lengthy album. Follow up ‘Drunk Texting‘ featuring Jhene Aiko closes the standard edition, and here is where we urge you to get the deluxe edition as this is a poor closer and probably our least favourite entry on ‘X’.

The deluxe version of ‘X’ treats us to another 4 tracks, and to end things on an unexpected high note, these are a solid 4 tracks – albeit 3 out of 4 being singles we’ve heard up to a year ago. ‘Lost In Ya Love‘ is followed by the singles ‘Love More‘ featuring Nicki Minaj, ‘Don’t Think They Know‘ featuring Aaliyah, and last but certainly not least, Chris Brown’s homage to Michael Jackson, ‘Fine China‘ (above).

If you’re an existing Chris Brown fan, it’s easy to be excited about ‘X’. We’ve had a 2 year wait since previous release ‘Fortune’, so to have a large catalogue of new music is welcome on any of Team Breezy’s iTunes. Alas, we think it’ll be hard for Mr Brown to draw in any new fans with this exceptionally long release. Cut out the album fillers, you have a strong, solid record with a good mix of songs that still offer consistency. Listen in full, and these tracks can get lost amongst beats and vocals we’ve heard thousands of times before.

‘X’ is available on iTunes worldwide now.

Review by Jayde Engledew

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