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Chris Brown grows up with ‘F.A.M.E’

Claire Stephens | Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Favorite Tracks: “Yeah 3x” “Look at Me Now” “Next 2 You”

Chris Brown’s new album “F.A.M.E.,” released mid-March, follows his Grammy-nominated album of 2009, “Graffiti.” This is his first album since the domestic violence controversy involving Rihanna in February of the same year. The acronym “F.A.M.E.” has two meanings: “Forgiving All My Enemies” and “Fans are My Everything.”

Brown’s incorporation of R&B, pop and hip-hop gives the album a variety of slower songs, upbeat dance songs and his signature confident hip hop. Overall, the album’s style leans towards hit love songs like “Forever,” with a few Top 40 potentials similar to “Run It” and “I Can Transform Ya.”

The lyrics of the slower-paced R&B sounds can be grouped into two categories: emotional, romantic ballad and slow grind, in the mood music. Some of his best vocals are in the passionate and convincing lyrics of the more romantic songs like “Up 2 You” and “Next 2 You.”

Nostalgic, regret-driven, get-the-girl-back songs include “She Ain’t You,” “All Back” and “Should’ve Kissed You.” A close listening to the words reveal some of these songs are surprisingly mature in their expression of love, life and even family.

The slow grind-esque R&B song “No Bull****” takes a middle road between romantic and sensual, effectively using both physical and emotional imagery together. “Wet the Bed,” as the title implies, takes a much more blatantly sexual tone in the lyrics. The song features the rapping talents of Ludacris, who eliminates any doubt about the song’s meaning.

Most of “F.A.M.E” follows pop influences, while staying in the R&B genre. “Up 2 You” and “She Ain’t You” have a ‘90s boy-band pop sound to them. The electronic, upbeat dance element popular in Top 40 hits today is very prominent in the already-hit single “Yeah 3x,” as well as “Say It With Me” and “Oh My Love.” Any of these tracks could easily become popular club favorites.

“Look at Me Now” effectively layers the vocal skills of the artists and the music. One of the best songs on the album, its heavy, slow bass beats and claps mix with electronic effects to create an ear-catching single. Chris Brown’s self-assured rapping is reminiscent of the single that made him famous, “Run It,” with lyrics taunting doubters to see how far he’s come.

The presence of guest artists greatly enhances many of Brown’s songs without taking too much attention away from his impressive singing and rapping. Busta Rhyme’s mile-a-minute rapping with Lil Wayne’s distinct and instantly recognizable voice gives “Look at Me Now” a more diverse and powerful boasting of success.

Ludacris’ small spotlight and background vocals scattered throughout “Wet the Bed” enhances the unashamedly graphic themes of the song. Kevin McCall and Tyga are also heard in the album’s mediocre opening song “Deuces.

Brown also follows Usher’s and Ludacris’ example by collaborating with Justin Bieber in “Next 2 You.” Both Brown and Bieber’s vocals are impressive individually and also blend and harmonize well together. The subject matter of the lyrics is unexpectedly touching considering the young age of both performers.

“Some of the songs are more grown-up,” Brown said. “There are songs from all genres … Collectively, ‘F.A.M.E.’ is me giving fans every aspect of who I am as far as my art, my culture and my concepts.”

“F.A.M.E.” is a strong album musically and improves Brown’s image after the domestic abuse controversy. The success of “Yeah 3x” seems to suggest audiences have already forgotten or forgiven Brown’s past mistakes. “F.A.M.E” gives Brown the chance to show off his vocal and dancing abilities, while allowing him to leave his negative celebrity status of 2009 behind and move on as a singer, songwriter and dancer.