Love him or hate him, Chris Brown is a topic of controversy who experienced many highs and lows in the public. For music’s sake however, even though I know that it’s hard to ignore the many transgressions in his recent past – let’s focus. I know, I know, I’ve seen many opinions on X that talk about anything, but the music it’s comprised of. Let’s hone in and focus now. My fear with this album and other albums with under those circumstances is that the delays would make it disjointed and not cohesive. Especially with a monster hit like “Loyal” because of the legal trouble, it couldn’t capitalize off the energy of the release. X is a mixed bag that shows growth in the singer’s arsenal, but stretches itself to try to cover all facets of appeal. You want to root for Brown (musically), but I feel there may be an identity crisis or that he was pressed for time to get the album out.
There are 17 tracks on X which I believe you could easily cut down to a good 12-13 song album and it would make it a better listen. I wish that artists would concentrate on giving us the best content instead of giving us the most content. X seems to play out like a therapeutic journey for Brown as the first track on the album produced by Diplo would imply. “I think that it’s over/I swear to God I’m moving on”. Like “Beautiful People”, Brown thrives on the electronic based track, which could double as a Major Lazer song. “Do Better”, a duet with Brandy seems like a look at past regrets and losing someone over them. “If I knew better/I’d do better”. I wonder if at this point, will fans side with Brown on his quest to right the ship or if they feel like it’s the boy who cried wolf?
Tracks with Trey Songz and R. Kelly are like two sides of a coin. “Songs On 12 Play” featuring Songz is reminiscent of the sultry and erotic R&B in previous years that works. “Drown In It” featuring Kelly seems over the top especially with him stating he wanted to drown in it “like a male mermaid” (c’mon, man). There are examples of songs that made fans like his music in the first place. “Add Me In” and “Time For Love” are going to make loyal (see what I did there) Chris Brown fans dance and will garnish radio play.
The most personal track on the album is “Autumn Leaves” featuring Kendrick Lamar. It serves as a summary of failed love and coming to peace with it (we hope). “Before I sleep, I talk to God/He must be mad at me/It’s karma”. Lamar sounds like the voice of reason that Chris Brown maybe needed all along through SOMEBODY. “Don’t panic when you make mistakes the most/one day it’ll make you grow”.
Everybody loves a redemption story, but as indicated in “Do Better”, Brown has to get out of his own way. If he tunes out the noise and really hones in on this talent instead of worrying about the distractions around him, Brown is capable of making a defining album of this career. X is solid like all previous albums, but needs to be trimmed down and focused.