I’m just going to assume that Chris Brown’s latest effort, X, is totally about his ex, Rihanna. This collection of sad, reflective, as well as upbeat dance songs gives you two sides of the embattled singer – his somber Dr. Jekyll and his bouyant Mr. Hyde. Jail has apparently humbled and matured the 25-year-old. First, we see a sensitive young man trying to reshape his image and move past his ugly past as reflected on songs like “Autumn Leaves” and “See You Around”. Second, we see the radio friendly club banger, who’s misogynistic lyrics are in total opposition to the afore mentioned sensitive soul; “Loyal” and “Love More”. Such is the contradictory dichotomy of Chris Brown. Clocking in at 21 tracks, ultimately, the ballad-filled X is Breezy’s opus to love fractured and love lost.
The Sensitive Soul
Turning on his inner Dr. Jekyll, Breezy starts us off with “X”. The song doesn’t really take off, but it features some interesting schizophrenic electronic beats and introspective lyrics. “I deal with my pain like a lonely child / I didn’t build these walls for you to piss all on my past.” Being the one at whom fingers are always being pointed, Chris pulls no punches in trying to repair his ruptured soul and bad-guy image with a yelled declaration, “I swear to God I’m moving on!” Rihanna, take note.
“Autumn Leaves” is a stand-out. Chris’s voice drips with somber regret and honesty. His maturity meets complex poetic lyrics that show the irony of finding safety in a violent (but familiar) relationship. “I’ve been bleeding in your silence / I feel safer in your violence / I hold on like leaves and fall to what is left”. Like the seasons, love changes – and that must be the hardest lesson for Chris to learn. Kendrick Lamar raps like truth serum about Chris’ violent outbursts and the sting of always being castigated as the villain in the media: “You reapin’ what you sowed,” Kendrick raps.
The fabulous “New Flame” (featuring Usher) is a croon made in heaven. These two should have gotten together sooner. I had this on repeat.
Now, any R&B singer who can hook up with the ultimate croon king Mr. R. Kelly has officially moved to the big leagues. Chris Brown achieves this with “Drown In It”. Breezy must have been geeking out; I know I was. Another R. Kelly shout out-aired on “Songs on 12 Play”. Sounded just like sex. Thank you, Kells.
It’s nice to hear Ariana Grande’s voice blend on “Don’t Be Gone Too long,” but the song remains boringly mild (like a few other tracks on here). The enchanting medieval fairytale video,however, is way more epic! Chris is featured as the knight in shining armor. (How’s that for an image reversal?)
And what do we all do when missing an ex? “Drunk Texting”. Cool concept with Jhené Aiko (although the song could have been revved up). Finally, “See You Around” provides more introspective lyrics about regretting when your woman loves another man (Drake, anyone?). Over a frothy carousel feel, it sounds like Chris has finally accepted that he lost his love Rihanna, and has emerged only wanting to see her happy. Now that’s growth.
The Club Banger
And now, for Mr. Hyde. Bringing in the best of the bangers is the popular “Loyal”. Even though the lyrics are totally misogynistic, I was always a fan, especially of Lil Wayne’s clever rap.
“Love More” ft. Nicki Minaj is a straight radio club hit, jumping off with Brown’s stunning falsetto. The chorus is more than abrasive: “’Til we get it right we gon’ f**k some more”. But that’s Breezy’s dichotomy for you.
And for its totally Michael Jackson feel, “Fine China” is an excellently well-constructed song. It’s up there with some of Chris Brown’s best work. X’s many soulful ballads and duets give us a look into Breezy’s soul that few of his radio hits ever did. Definitely worth the listen.
Don’t Be Gone Too Long – Chris Brown ft. Ariana Grande