Album Review: Chris Brown

Mini-Description: In my thirtieth album review, I take a look at Chris Brown's messy, inconsistent debut -- that actually turns out pretty fun!

Best Songs: "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)", "Say Goodbye", "Just Fine", "Gimme That" ft. Lil Wayne, "Young Love"
Worst Songs: "Thank You", "Run It" ft. Juelz Santana


(This was a voted album in light of the Soulja Boy beef)

It does make sense in a way that this would be the Chris Brown album that people would pick for me to review. As much as I wanted to tear Graffiti, F.A.M.E., or Fan of A Fan into the braying, sniveling little pieces that they really are, or discuss the downright messiness of Exclusive, or even the possibility of redemption on Royalty, no one really cared to hear yet another person complain about albums that are already known for their awfulness, though I will get into every single one of these albums in detail by the end of the year.

But for now, flash back to 2005. Awful year all things considered. Usher's Yeah! sort of stopgabbed pop music and stagnated it. It was a very "what now?" year. You could tell, with Eminem, the Black Eyed Peas, Crazy Frog, Gwen Stefani, and others releasing some of the worst songs of the decade. But sitting right at the top of the game was a young 16 year old named Chris Brown. He had a #1 hit this year with Run It, which if I'm being honest is one of the worst #1 hits of the 2000s. But you know, that's one song and he's young, surely the rest of his debut self-titled album can't be that bad, right? So then flash forward to 2017, where Chris Brown is one of the most loathsome people/musicians on the planet, and then my expectations of quality nosedive further. Did I get what I expected?

Well, no, not at all. In fact, I'd say that this is pretty decent. It's not spectacular or probably even all that good, but you could expect a lot worse from Chris Brown. And the best place to start is with Breezy himself. Now, I've never been able to stand his voice (mention goes out to "don't believe my AIDS gonna slow us down" on Run It), which has always been this shrill, piercing higher range that has absolutely no sense of dynamics or style, constantly bouncing between a soft whimper that's barely even audible or a grating squeak that gargles his words together.

Even worse than Chris himself is the vocal production. Maybe it was 2005, maybe it was a bad budget, maybe it was his label desperately trying to squeeze an album out of him as fast as possible, but not only is Chris' voice annoying, so is everything just surrounding it. He's slathered in so much effects and pitch-correction that all seem to try and support his very weak voice, but all it does is add to how unseasoned and amateur it feels. At his best, the elements stress his lower register like on Yo, or give him a serious sincerity like on Just Fine. At his worst, the harmonizations on Run It and Thank You envelop Chris Brown's voice in a blaring smolder that alternates between annoying and unsettling.

What didn't really wow me at all either were the guest stars. There are three on this album, and while two of them aren't bad, none of them are great. I would say Lil Wayne fares the best on Gimme That for some pretty charming wordplay to balance out the song's elegance, but Noah is really dull and forgettable, making him starkly out of place on the otherwise really good What's My Name, but his verse itself is passable. What isn't is Juelz Santana's abysmal verse on Run It. His rhymes are terrible, his content is leering, and he doesn't even TRY to fit the meter of the song.

Now, let's go straight to the area where I surprisingly had quite a bit of praise, and that's in the songwriting department. Now, I'll admit right out of the gate that yes, this is teen pop trying to be hard. No, it's not complex and isn't very cleverly written. But in a twisted parallel, on the album that is easily his most naive in terms of both sound and lyricism, it probably pulls off his "swagger" and "cool" persona the best, probably because he's nowhere near as sniveling and obnoxious.

And yeah, this album's writing leaves me with very little to really discuss. It's very pseudo-hip, slightly sappy love songs displayed throughout, but I think there are a few moments that get somewhat interesting. Primarily Ya Man Ain't Me, a song about Chris Brown trying to steal someone else's girlfriend. To my surprise, he does have a lot of evidence as to how this girl's boyfriend isn't keeping up with her. He's smug, arrogant, and apparently cheated on her. While the fact that we still have to take Chris Brown's word for it should become insufferable, this actually brings an interesting aspect to the table.

That being Chris Brown's age and attitude. Now, obviously I'm not just going to give someone a pass for being young. But Chris Brown genuinely seems inexperienced and innocent, which while making of the love songs pretty laughable (albeit endearing), also gives this album a weirdly precious feel to it that can't really be explained. Now, this doesn't always work. Songs like Ain't No Way (You Won't Love Me) and Winner tend to use his age as a gimmick, which feels awkward next to Run It where he says outright that this girl turns him on.

However, the two best songs on this album are not love songs, but breakup songs. Just Fine is a song where Chris Brown ensures this girl that he has proven that he isn't the one for her and it would be in both of their best interests to move on, I dig the honesty. Then there's Say Goodbye, which feels tinged with slight melancholy as Chris feels stuck, not wanting to break this girl's heart, but also not wanting to pretend that he's right for her, as it will only get worse for them in the long run. I genuinely feel what Chris does, and I've never even been in a relationship. I mean, I'm 13 and a loser.

Now the song that falls into a weird place for me is the closing song Thank You. I'll get to more on this song later, but it's a song that feels like it should work more than it does. It's a song about Chris being grateful about everything he has (on a debut lol), but I feel like he...overcompensates, with the screaming fans and him thanking God and Jesus Christ, it gets more than a little eyeroll-worthy.

Now what may or may not be is the instrumentation and production. This album surprisingly goes for a lot for a major label debut from 2005, and there are some moments I really do like because of it. The breeze of synth against the blocky beat on Yo (Excuse Me Miss), the bassline-fusing horns on Young Love, the bouncy, pretty little strings driving Gimme That that somehow makes me overlook how synthetic they are, the gentle keys against waves of guitar on Ya Man Ain't Me, the acoustic plucks with keys, shimmering of cymbals, and tribal percussion on Winner, the electric flute and creaking guitars on Ain't No Way (You Won't Love Me), the very catchy guitar melody atop bongos for the best groove on this album on What's My Name (at least until Noah comes in), the soft acoustic strums on Just Fine, or especially the throwback with melancholy pianos, syncing bass, and sparkles on easily the best song here Say Goodbye.

That said...again, this album goes for a lot of things, and as a result the production is very hit-and-miss. Part of this has to do with time and timing. Chris Brown's label had to capitalize on the success of Run It as quickly as possible, so they cobbled together a bunch of ideas to see what stuck. While a lot did stick, a lot also didn't and the fact that this album sounds so dated doesn't help. For as much as I like Young Love, the chugging beat only highlights the fact that this album is kinda derivative and hasn't aged well.

That's not even talking about the tones that are outright bad, like the pitch-shifted squeal running through Intro, the fake claps and harsh sizzling synths on Run It, the clashes in fidelities and ear switchups on Is This Love, or the squeaking synth loop mirrored by the high bass on Poppin'. But worst of all is easily Thank You, a song designed to sound happy and exultant, but ends up sounding tortured and melancholic with the chugging bass, snaps synchronizing with the one-note synth, dark piano, and slow harmonizations that constantly put me on the edge of dread, easily one of the worst songs of 2005 period.

But yeah... I get the tone of this review sorta jumped all over the place. I don't know whether that stemmed from low expectations, great moments balanced out by truly awful ones, or both. But that's not fair, because this album is passable. I won't guarantee you'll like it, but I do guarantee it won't bore you. For me it's a light 6/10 and a recommendation. Let me put it this way: it'll be prettier than the next few times I review Chris Brown. And speaking of ugly things, now I have to review Soulja Boy. *shoots himself*

This is WonkeyDude98, and sorry this took so long, school's been busy again. Anyways, when I have more free time I'm gonna start reviewing every Chris Brown album (kill me) and I'll have a link to every Chris Brown review I make up to that point in chronological order (of album release) starting when I review Exclusive. Anyway, this is WonkeyDude98, signing out.



So, a slew of Chris Brown albums now? - ProPanda

No, that's after I catch up on 2016. - WonkeyDude98

Chris Brown is just a crappy music artist. - DCfnaf